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The temperature seeds are kept at before they are planted is important. Before planting, seeds on a farm may be stored for up to a year. If the temperature rises too high or drops too low, it is possible that the seeds may not even germinate once planted. This is, of course, very unfortunate for the farmer or gardener who wished to grow them. Farmers need to worry about choosing the right time of the year to grow their crop. If the plant being grown needs warm temperatures, then the farmer needs to make sure the harvest is complete before winter starts. For this experiment, alfalfa seeds will be subjected to temperatures outside the levels that they are normally grown or stored at. A control group will be left at room temperature. The experiment will collect data on germination rates for the plant. This will give information about the possible effects of storing seeds improperly in an environment with cold temperatures.

Background information:
Medicago sativa, or the alfalfa plant, is a nutritious herb that can be added to many dishes. Its best growing conditions would be in firm soil with a pH from 6.5 to 7.0, although it may still grow with a slightly higher pH. Ideally the plant would be exposed to the sunlight for most of the day. The top two inches of the soil that it is planted in should remain moist, and the seed should be planted a quarter to a half inch deep. It is normally green once sprouted, but when it blooms the flowers are a purple color. The best temperature for alfalfa is an air temperature of 81 degrees and a soil temperature of 54 degrees, both Fahrenheit. These factors all influence the plants ability to go through cellular respiration and, once germinated, photosynthesis. The enzymes used in these reactions work best if all of the factors above are present. Temperature has a huge effect on all organisms. For example, in humans most of the bodys processes can only run properly at a temperature close to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The same thing applies to plants. At temperatures outside the normal range, a plant can grow slower or improperly. If it is too cold or too hot, a seed wont germinate at all. This is once again due to enzymes having ideal conditions to work. Since temperature has such an effect on plants, the hypothesis is that if the temperature of the seeds is changed too much, then less seeds will germinate and there will be less growth.

If the seeds are heated, then they will have less germination than if cooled. If they are cooled, then they will have less germination than if left at room temperature.

Materials and Methods

45 Medicago sativa, or alfalfa, seeds were put into each of the three paper bowls, making sure to spread the seeds out across the bottom so they are not on top of each other. Then the bowls were covered by plastic. The covered bowls help separate the seeds from the environment so controlled variables remain constant. The paper bowls were labeled Freezer, Fridge, and Control.

Using a thermometer, the temperature was measured in the freezer, the refrigerator, and the room and recorded. The freezer bowl was placed in the freezer and the fridge bowl in the refrigerator. The control group was at about room temperature and in the cabinet, as there is no light in the refrigerator or freezer. After 48 hours, the bowls were removed.

Label the twelve plastic bags. Three were labeled Freezer, three were labeled Fridge, and three were labeled Control. Three paper towels were to fit the plastic bags and fifteen seeds from the Freezer dish were placed on each of them evenly spaced. It took all three paper towels to hold the seeds from the bowl. Each paper towel with seeds was placed into a Freezer bag.

Using a teaspoon to measure the volume of the water, 10 mL of tap water were poured into the bags. (One teaspoon is about 5 mL.) Steps 7-9 were repeated for the other two groups.

The bags were placed in an area where all nine would be at the same temperature and receive the same amount of sunlight. For the next three days, the number of seeds germinated for each group was recorded. Some qualitative observations about the appearance of the seeds were also recorded. The Control bags were the control group and the others were the experimental groups. The plastic bags with the seeds were disposed of in the garbage and the remaining materials were put away.


Temperature (C)
Number Germinated Percent Germinated

Average Length of Sprouts (cm)

Physical description
Control 24 43 96% 1.5 All groups have sprouts with two small green leaves (Called cotyledons) Refrigerator 3 41 91% 2

Freezer -17 42 93% 1.75

Effect of Temperature Change on Seeds Before Germination Images

Layout of the seeds Sprout Seeds in the bags

[Graph Attached]

The hypothesis stated that fewer heated seeds would germinate than the cooled seeds which would germinate less than the control. The part of the experiment where heat was tested was not performed due to safety concerns, so that part of the hypothesis is unknown to be true or false. The experiment on reducing the seeds temperature was inconclusive. There was no significant difference between the three groups tested. There was no more than a 5% difference between the numbers of germinated seeds in each group. The experiment neither proved nor disproved the hypothesis, at least as far as alfalfa is concerned. One of the reasons for this is that alfalfa is a very resilient seed. Had another seed been used, it is quite possible the results would have been different. Another source of error is the small sample size. Given the small size of alfalfa, it could be possible to test this experiment with a sample size of up to 100,000 seeds, which would give much more accurate results. To accomplish this would require more time and space than was available. Similar experiments have produced similar inconclusive results, leading to the belief that freezing the seeds will not have an effect. One source says that, if a seed is dried out, it can be stored at sub-zero temperatures for years. This, however, only applies to certain kinds of seeds. In order to kill the seeds or stunt their growth, much colder temperatures must be used (as in liquid nitrogen cold). Warmer temperatures are a different story. Seeds are much less tolerant to hot weather. Heating the alfalfa seeds to 140F could have a much more noticeable effect. Some other design errors include the fact that temperatures in the refrigerator, freezer, and even in the room often fluctuate throughout the day, which could cause small differences in plant size. These results are important because, as the rationale states, seeds are stored before they are planted. According to the results, it may be safe, at least for alfalfa, to store the seeds in a cold environment before planting them. This may help preserve the seed so it does not get infestations or diseases. To be sure it is safe, it would be a good plan to run the experiment again with larger sample sizes and a different kind of seed. This would check to see if the original results were flawed or if it is actually safe to freeze seeds. If it is safe, then it could act as a helpful way of preservation which could help to increase food production which helps the whole world.

Burton, Jane, and Kim Taylor. The Nature and Science of Seeds. Gareth Stevens Publishing, 1999. 19. Print.

Dixon, Paul, Dennis Cash, and et al. "Establishing a Successful Alfalfa Crop." Montana State University. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb 2013. <http://animalrangeextension.montana.edu/articles/forage/alfalfa/alfalfa_est.pdf>.

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