Potting Seeds In Soil And Working With R-Studio

22 February 2024

By Katelyn Gianni and Ash Waletski

Over the last few weeks, we have continued the seed germination experiment. Our group is currently working with Rubus idaeus, common raspberries, and Chamaenerion angustifolium, fireweed. We are observing the presence or absence of 5 grams of commercial mycorrhizal inoculant on the germination rates of these two species. When we started this experiment at the beginning of the semester, we had isolated seeds from store-bought raspberries, and we are eagerly awaiting their sprouting since the seeds we germinated and planted are from real fruit! After 4 weeks under C30 conditions (4 weeks in the fridge!), we were able to plant our seeds this week.

Figure 1. Katelyn labeling the four groups of planted seeds.

We decided to pot our plants in soil rather than tape them to the window, which is another common way to start seeds. We chose this because we are working with fungi, specifically a mycorrhizal inoculant that is supposed to create a symbiotic relationship between the plant and the mycorrhizae of the fungi. The symbiotic relationship between fungi and plants is described as fungi being able to help the plant by extracting nutrients from soil and/or water; in return, the plant helps the fungi to also receive nutrients by obtaining sugar from the plant. In some cases, the fungi can also help to protect the plant against harmful organisms. By choosing to pot our plants in soil rather than taping them to the window, we plan to watch whether or not the symbiotic relationship actually helps germinate our seeds faster or not. Our prediction when we first started this experiment was it was not going to help germinate our seeds faster. We predicted this because our seeds were previously in a plastic bag and we thought that the mycorrhizal inoculant would not help because there are no nutrients for the fungi to pull out from the plastic bag enclosure our seeds were germinating in.

Another project we have been working on is learning to use R, the coding language used to analyze biogeographical data. Katelyn chose Quercus rubra, the Northern red oak, and Ash chose Quercus Grisea, the Northern gray oak. We found data on each tree and where it grew, then we took that data, downloaded it, and are now working on translating that data into R to push out some useful information having to do with the species-specific niches in their environment. This information will help us to better understand the species and will also show us how to do it on future species.

Figure 2. Ashley working with her species data and R-studio.

Overall, every week has been extremely interesting and insightful so far! Learning how to code on R has definitely been quite the experience and has challenged us technology-wise. Although it’s been difficult, we’ve learned some basic R coding techniques and tricks in the process of many mistakes. On the bright side, our experiment concerning the symbiotic relationship between the germination of Rubus idaeus (common raspberries) and Chamaenerion angustifolium (fireweed) and the mycorrhizal inoculant (fungi) is going considerably well. Again, through some troubleshooting and factors that were out of our control, we learned that experiments are experiments for a reason and that not everything has to be perfect or go according to plan. As we continue our journey through this research program, we will take our experiences and our newfound knowledge to the future challenges we might face.

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