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Effects of Road Salt on Grass Seed Germination

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Erin O'Donnell

on 15 April 2014

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Transcript of Effects of Road Salt on Grass Seed Germination

Effects of Road Deicing Solutions on Grass Seed Germination
Experiment Basics
If road salt is applied to grass seed, then germination rate of the seed will be decreased.

Independent Variable:
Type of salt and amount of salt applied

Dependent Variable:
Germination rate of grass seed

Seed mixture, amount of water applied, water source, growing location, growing medium

Add one folded paper towel (6 in2) to each of the five ziplock bags.
Spray each paper towel 28 times with water.
Add approximately 50 grass seeds to each bag.
Apply salts to seeds.
Close bags, place on same shelf with partial sunlight.
After 5 days, add 8 more sprays of water per bag.

No salt added, 54 seeds
1 Tbsp NaCl added, 46 seeds
1Tbsp Zero Ice added (MgCl2 & MgCl2 mixture), 47 seeds
3 Tbsp NaCl added, 53 seeds
3 Tbsp Zero Ice added, 46 seeds

In both concentrations used, NaCl and the Zero Ice (containing MgCl2 & CaCl2 ) contributed to a 0% germination rate.
The control germination rate of 85.17% is consistent with the 85-90% germination rate guaranteed on the package label.
Quantity of application of NaCl & Zero Ice exceeded packing label recommendations. This was decided upon based on two factors:
Accumulation of salts in the soil surrounding roadways often occurs, leading to higher concentrations within the growing medium.
Purpose of Experiment
In the winter of 2012-2013, the US applied over 17 million tons of road salt as a way of preventing and/or minimizing ice and snow accumulation.
Most of this is sodium chloride (NaCl) which is also known as rock salt or common table salt.
Calcium chloride (CaCl2) and Magnesium chloride (MgCl2) are also used at times, but are more expensive.
The chloride ion in these compounds can cause disruptions in growth along roadsides and can lead to water contamination as it runs off into nearby water bodies.
Many companies claim that CaCl2 ad MgCl2 is less damaging to the environment than NaCl.
Alternatives to salts are available, but are seen as impractical because of much higher costs.
Homeowners and small businesses often over-apply road salts because of a lack of information and the relatively small monetary loss.
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