Plants & Human Affairs - Seeds II
Cherries.wmf (7140 bytes) Plants & Human Affairs (BIOL106)  -  Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D.; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321;;

SEEDS II Experiment

 Objectives:  Upon completion of this lab, you should be able to

  1. describe the growth of a tomato plant

  2. design and conduct a scientific experiment

  3. analyze and report the results of a scientific experiment

    The purpose of this laboratory is to study the effect that microgravity and increased pressure has on the germination and subsequent growth and development of tomato seeds. The variety of tomato used in this experiment is California Rutgers Supreme.  These tomatoes are open-pollinated (self-pollinated by the wind) and give good yields of large fruit.  The average number of days from seed to mature fruit is 74. 

    The seeds were provided as a joint project sponsored by the Park Seed Company (Greenwood, South Carolina) and NASA Life Sciences Outreach Program.  Park Seed donated 4.2 million  tomato seeds for the SEEDS II project.  The seeds were first tumbled in a drum to remove the seed fuzz.  This reduced the volume and lessened the possibility of contamination of the seeds.  The seeds were then divided into three equal groups.  One set was kept at Park seed facilities as the control seeds.  Another set was sealed in a Get-Away Special Canister and flown aboard space shuttle Atlantis as part of the payload for the STS-86 mission and the third set was sealed in a dry container and placed in the Scott Carpenter Space Analog Station that was deployed underwater in Key Largo, Florida.  After nine days all seeds were returned to Park Seed Company where they were packaged in foil packets (SEEDS II brochure).  Table 1 provides a comparison of the treatments of the three groups of seeds. 

Table 1.  Comparison of Treatments in the SEEDS II Experiment






Park Seed Company

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Scott Carpenter Analog Station


Greenwood, SC

Earth orbit (184 statute miles)

30 feet undersea, Key Largo, FL

Storage Container

Dry Canister

Get Away Special Canister (GAS Can)

Dry Canister

Temperature (C)


16 - 18

23 � 28

Humidity (%)



80 - 99

Pressure (atmosphere)




     In this lab, we will study some aspect of tomato growth.  In small groups we will brainstorm potential research questions.  After sharing these ideas, we will select one or more questions to study in greater detail. 


    We will begin by working in small groups.  Each group will brainstorm as many testable questions as possible.  We will than share these ideas with the class.  As a group we will select one or more questions to study with our experiment.  We will generate hypotheses from our questions and then develop an experiment to test our experiments.  For each question, we will use and complete the following model:

  1. Question: (there are many potential questions; we will select one or a limited number)

  2. Hypothesis: (State it as a null hypothesis.  What are some alternative hypotheses)

  3. Predictions:  (identify the predictions from your hypothesis)  

  4. Protocol: (briefly outline the methods that we will use in our experiment.  Include an indication of what we will measure, etc.)  

  5. Results (what data did you collect?)

  6. Conclusions: (what do our data show?  use appropriate statistical tests to analyze our data

    For each of the questions that we generate and decide to test, turn in a separate sheet addressing each of the six major points.  Then write a summary of the entire experiment.  One page.  Include in your summary information about the effect of microgravity on plants. 


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Last updated:  07/28/2005 / � Copyright  by SG Saupe / URL: