The Effect of Biostimulation Oil Spill Collection on Winter Rye

Friday, February 12, 2016
Julie Goldberg, Wachusett Regional High School, Paxton, MA
Oil spills are a pressing issue and clean-up methods often further harm organisms in the environment. An eco-friendly method of oil spill collection without byproducts is Biostimulation, which fuels bacteria with natural fertilizers to speed up the degradation of oil. The hypothesis was that if nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers stimulate bacteria already present in the soil and provide extra nutrients to encourage plant growth, then using these fertilizers will allow for winter rye to stay alive while the oil is degraded over time. If this occurs, then winter rye planted in soil with bacteria will be more successful than those in autoclaved soil. This sterilized soil helps determine if the bacteria is degrading the oil or if the fertilizer is just encouraging plant growth.

The experiment had four groups: a control group, an oil group, a fertilizer group, and a group with both fertilizer and oil. There were three seeds in each of the ten planters per group. Five of these planters contained soil with bacteria, while the other five had autoclaved soil. When applicable, the seed was completely submerged in 20W-50 oil. Quantitative data included: height, angle, and success. Qualitative data included: which rye were green, brown, bent, twisted, and fallen over. Through data and statistics, the hypothesis was supported. The group with fertilizer and bacteria exposed to oil surpassed the oil group significantly and achieved the same rate of growth as the control and fertilizer groups. Early in the trial, the oil and fertilizer group with bacteria was significantly different from the control, but by the end there was no significant difference. This suggests that the oil amount in the soil was reduced to the extent that it no longer inhibited the growth of the winter rye.