Field Investigations: Biomass Yield and Root Growth in Crops

Middle School
High School

This field investigation serves to strengthen student understanding of the ability of plants to sequester carbon above and below ground. Students will measure above ground biomass by harvesting small samples, and root growth using ingrown root-cores. These activities are adaptable to school-yard plots, existing agricultural plots or natural areas. Extend the learning by combining this activity with The Science of Farming research story, Growing Energy data dive, Root Depth ModelBioenergy Farm Game, and Fields of Fuel computer game.

Environmental Science
Carbon Cycle & Climate Change
Plants & Photosynthesis
Carbon cycle, biomass, bioenergy, photosynthesis, carbon sequestration, climate change, data analysis, scientific argumentation
Prior Knowledge
Basic knowledge of greenhouse effect, carbon cycle, photosynthesis, and glucose transport in plants.
Time Required
Three 50-minute classroom periods minimum plus wait time for plant growth
Required Supplies
Biomass sampling: Scissors or plant shears, Quadrats – 30 x 30 cm squares can be constructed with rulers (small hoola-hoops work well), Pan(s) for collecting and drying, Oven(s) for drying (optional).
Root growth sampling: #5 plastic mesh plastic canvas sheets (13 1/4” x 22” needlework mesh), Adhesive, Utility knives or scissors, 2” knockout test caps, Masking Tape, Stapler and staples, Tweezers, Trays for separating root mass, Bulb planter or trowel, 2” diameter soil probe, Marker flags, Shovels, Rulers.