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Help on tomato nutrition demonstration

Bill Williams bwilliam at oyster.smcm.edu
Thu Aug 12 11:15:53 EST 1993

For several years we've been using a standard tomato nutrition demo
in our introductory biology lab.  We grow tomato plants in hydroponic
solutions deficient in different nutrients and ask students to look at
the plants and use a key to determine which nutrient is missing.

It has never worked well.  Usually, we get very large death rates
independent of nutrient treatment. Typical symptoms begin with
blackening and thickening of the roots, necrosis of above-"ground"
tissue, senescence, and death.
Can anyone suggest what might be going wrong?  We've tried bubbling
the solutions with air, but that doesn't seem to make any difference.
Some other questions about this procedure:
 	How important is aeration? It's a real pain, and we'd be able to do
 	more replicates if we didn't have to bubble air.
 	What's the best way to start the tomatoes, and when should they be
 	to the hydroponic treatments?  Currently we're starting them on
 	paper with distilled water and moving them at the two-leaf stage.
We would greatly appreciate any suggestions!
William E. Williams, bwilliam at oyster.smcm.edu
Divison of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
St. Mary's College of Maryland
St. Mary's City, MD 20686

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