I was assigned writing a term paper about optimizing plant growth using control systems. This assignment is part of a class on sustainable energy usage, which means it's primarily on physics and technology.

I will have to conduct experiments comparing the growth of plants under different conditions and whether or not using control systems are effective (and sustainable) at improving plant growth. More focus will be put on the technical and energy aspects of this problem but getting the experiments with plants right is important, too.

Unfortunately I don't know much about experimenting with plant growth and most of my decisions would be blind guesses. The experiments should be short term (a couple of days would be ideal, the fewer the better. I do still have three months) and on a small scale in general.

The following are some of the questions I have.

  1. What specific plant or species is well suited for what I am describing here?

  2. What are representative and common measures of plant growth?

  3. What kind of light should I use? I will conduct the experiments indoor to keep the conditions about the same each time.

Additionally, I would be glad if someone could point me to good resources on this topic.

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    $\begingroup$ With all those questions, you're essentially asking us to design your experiment for you. You should be talking to whomever gave you the assignment for guidance. We don't know exactly what they want. Also, if you want to measure plant growth over two or three days, you would do well to find a plant that grows, oh, inches a day. $\endgroup$ Jun 27 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ why don't you search some experiments for plant growth science, using related words, and see which cress, elodea, tomatoes, grass, and other species they use for different circumstances. $\endgroup$ Jun 27 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ @bandybabboon First of all thanks for your suggestions <3. I found it quite difficult to find something on this topic because a lot of what I found was targeted at kids, middle-schoolers and suchlike. $\endgroup$
    – deck4rd
    Jun 28 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ as a pre formal researchg you can try gpt frankly, it's pretty detaild if you make it double check and explain. $\endgroup$ Jul 13 at 10:24

1 Answer 1


Arabidopsis is a common model organism for classroom lab experiments, used because of a rapid growth cycle (days is probably too short, but a couple weeks would work).

It would be suitable for proof-of-concept. However, extrapolation to other plants is going to be problematic. There is no substitute in biology for the "real thing", we don't have laws like physics where you can scale using an equation.

I don't know much about experimenting with plant growth and most of my decisions would be blind guesses

The way to answer all your other questions is to read published papers in this area. You'll want to focus on the methods section - something you may have previously trained yourself to ignore, but it's often the most important part of the paper because it is necessary both to understand and contextualize the results and because it is necessary if you want to build on the work done.

If you want a useful project that goes beyond a classroom-level term paper, you should collaborate with someone who does know much about experimenting with plant growth. If you go on alone, you'll probably learn useful lessons about experimental design, but I'd give it maybe a generous 25% chance that you actually answer something useful to your intended research question. Instead, most likely after 3 months you'll have some failed experiments that taught you about ways that experiments can fail which you can hopefully avoid the next time around.


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