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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Down and Dirty Experiment 5
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When Water Hurts
Experiment 5



Can plants help prevent soil erosion?

4 pans that are alike, soil, water, sprinkling can, grass seed or a piece of sod


1. Poke holes along the side of one of the short ends of the pans. Fill one pan with soil.

2. Fill the second pan with soil or cut a piece of sod to fit in the pan. If you are using sod go to step 4.

3. Plant grass seed in the second pan. Place in a sunny location and water as needed to keep the soil moist, but not wet. When your grass is an inch high go on to step 4.
image of experiment setup with two pans: one with soil only and the other with soil and grass

image of one of the pans being watered


4. Place a block of wood under one end of the pans so they are on a slope with the holes on the low end. Place a pan or bucket underneath the holes.

5. Fill the sprinkling can and pour it on the high end of the first tray. Repeat the process for the second tray. Pour from the same height each time. 

6. After each trial empty the contents of the runoff pan or bucket into a clear container and compare the results.

image of a flashing light bulb

Think About This:

1. Which pan loses more soil?

2. How does water hurt the land?

3. How do plants help?

Extension: Make furrows across the bare soil. Repeat step 5. What happens?

image of a litte cartoon houseimage of a childimage of a magnifying glassimage of a dump truck

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Last Modified: 12/29/2016
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