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Induced Electromotive Force in Potatoes | Experiment

I was first introduced to vegetative electric energy during my freshman year in high school, when our chemistry teacher showed a lemon battery at work as we were studying Electrochemistry. I got very intrigued with the idea of generating electricity with lemons, and I later learnt that many organic substances exist which can also produce electricity.
The next year of my high school, I heard about the global consumption of power, and how the earth’s natural resources were getting depleted, and got an idea that if natural organic batteries were developed, the resources of the earth would remain stable. Thus I took up this study to help me explore the possibility of organic fuel cells and its capability of generating electromotive force.
For this study I will take potatoes into consideration because of their high acid content and the relative accessibility of it.
The acid responsible for the generation of EMF within the potato is Phosphoric acid, but my experiment will deal with what causes the change in the EMF when the potatoes are boiled. Initially I thought the cause lied in the varying concentration of the electrolyte, but upon further study and research found the reason to lie within the cell membranes of the potatoes that get ruptured during the boiling process of the potatoes, thereby varying the EMF generated.
After maize, wheat, and rice, potato is the world’s fourth most important food crop with an annual production of more than 323 x 106 tons with more than one-third coming from developing countries. Thus if potatoes do prove to be beneficial asset, it can able easily adopted by those who are lacking electrical infrastructure as part of the daily routine since it is cheap and requires no special skills for assembly.
RESEARCH QUESTION:
How does the induced electromotive force generated from the potatoes depend on the state of the potato (i.e. Fresh potato vs. Boiled Potato)?
INTRODUCTION: The first batteries were researched and invented by Volta when he made “a device capable of producing electricity by the mere contact of conducting substances of different species.” The invention of “Voltaic battery” had marked the birth of a new era in the development of modern physics and made a significant change in our lifestyle. Battery technology has without a doubt seen progress, starting from it being dependent on organic/biological matters to it becoming more efficient using inorganic-reaction-based technology. However from the end of the 20th century, biological batteries were just a mere science experiment performed in highs school, however with the growing concern of depleting the earth’s resources, there has been a new found interest in the development of organic fuel cells.
In order to highlight this growing interest, I have performed a study regarding the basic school experiment of a potato battery. For the first part of my study, I will perform the normal experiment by making a potato cell, using Zinc and Copper electrodes and recording the electromotive force (EMF) generated. Now, for the second part, I will boil the potatoes and record the readings of the EMF generated. I will compare the two results, and comment about my observations, and make possible conclusions about why there is a change in EMF generated or why there is no change in EMF generated.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION – ELECTROCHEMISTRY Electrochemistry deals with the inter-conversion of electrical energy and chemical energy. This study will deal with the conversion of chemical energy into electrical energy (Electrochemical Cells).
An electrochemical cell mainly consists of two major components: left hand electrode (LHE) and the right hand electrode (RHE). In LHE, oxidation (loss of electron) takes place and is called the anode. In RHE, reduction (gain of electron) takes place and is called cathode. Anode is generally of that metal (or substance) which readily loses electrons (i.e. Oxidized easily). Cathode is a metal which readily accepts electrons (i.e. Reduced easily).
There are two specific ways in order to create an electrochemical, voltaic or galvanic cell.
Method 1: Put the LHE (anode) into the solution of the electrolyte of the Cathode (containing the ions of the cathode). This allows the anode to loose electrons per atom and the ions present in the electrolyte accept the electrons. Thus, the cathode ions from the solution in this manner get deposited in order to form the metals of the respective cathode and the metal anode goes into the solution as ions. The reaction can be understood with two half-cell reactions:
Oxidation M Anode (S) Mn (aq) Anode ne-
Reduction: Mn (aq) Cathode ne- M Cathode(S) _ ___________________________________________________
Overall Reaction: M Anode(S) Mn (aq) Cathode M Cathode (S) Mn (aq)Anode
Where,
M Anode(S) is the element that gets oxidized at the anode,
M Cathode(S) is the element that gets reduced at the cathode,
ne- is the number of electrons lost/gained during the reaction
A rod of that metal is prepared and placed into one of its own solution in LHE to get anode. In RHE, a rod of metal that loses electrons less easily as compared to the metal of LHE is prepared and put into one of the solution to get the cathode. LHE and RHE are also known as two-half cells. Now the electrons move from anode (LHE) to cathode (RHE) and hence a current flow is maintained in the external circuit. This current flow is due to the fact that a potential difference is created this and this is called the E.M.F, electromotive force of a cell.
The two separate containers are connected by a inverted tube “U” shaped tube called as salt bridge. The salt bridge contains solution of strong ionic salts like NaCl, NaNO3 and KCl etc. (salts of most reactive alkali metals) soaked in colloidal solution of agar-gel which only allows movements of ions, not water. The role of the slat bridge is very important as it allows the continuous discharge of the cell. The salt bridge keeps the two solutions electrically neutral to one another. In the Fe-CuSO4 cell, in the left cell as Fe loses electrons, excess of positive charge in the form of Fe2 is collected near the LHE and as Cu2 ions gets discharged accepting electrons form Fe in the right hand cell, excess of negative charge in the form of SO42- is accumulated near the RHE. Now the salt bridge provides positive charge to RHE (in form of K ions) and negative charge to the LHE (in the form Cl-) and thus bringing about the neutrality of two solutions. If this does not take place, a reverse potential difference is created in the two compartments and thus breaking the continuous supple of voltage (current), which is the purpose of the cell.
The efficiency of a cell is determined by the tendency of LHE to loose electrons and the tendency of RHE to accept electrons. A measure of cell efficiency is called as electromotive force (EMF) or the voltage or the difference in potentials of two electrodes. EMF is defined as the difference in the potential across LHE and RHE to which electrons from anode travel to cathode.
My experiment consists of the above explanation with regard to a Secondary Battery or also called Galvanic Cell, which uses the main principles of the method mentioned above, but lacks a salt bridge but the cell membranes within the potato act as a salt bridge. The electrolyte in the potatoes is the phosphoric acid which does not actively participate in the reaction, since its main purpose is to make Zn loose electrons by oxidizing it, the potato provides the protons and the Cu plate remains unaffected by the acid bath.
My storage battery is the potato, with the anode plate is made up of Zinc (Zn), while the cathode plate is Copper (Cu). The electrolyte which initiates the reaction or makes the reaction possible in potatoes is phosphoric acid (H3PO4).
My experiment will involve the use of iron nails (Zn 2/Zn) acting as anode, and copper plates (Cu 2/Cu) as cathode.
These are placed in an electrically conductive solution that allows ions to travel freely between the two metals in this case potato. The acid steadily eats away at the Zinc, a chemical reaction that releases spare zinc electrons. These electrons then join with spare hydrogen ions in the acid to create hydrogen gas.
Meanwhile, the copper remains unaffected even when submerged in acid but as soon as a conducting wire is connected between it and iron electrons flow from copper to Iron. The spare iron electrons are still intent on forming hydrogen gas, but they have an easier time doing it with the hydrogen surrounding the iron anode. So the electrons from the copper cathode travel through the wire to get to the iron. Batteries exploit this flow of electrons, therefore producing induced EMF.
In most of the batteries, there is internal resistance which makes it impossible for the battery to produce 100% of its maximum potential difference. The same is applicable for the potato battery in the form of GAII (Galvanic apparent internal impedance, a trait related to both the salt bridge function of a given tissue delineated between electrodes and to the “battery internal resistance” properties). This electrical impedance can be a classified into further categories which is out of scope of this study. But the concept of GAII is useful as it can explain the relation between the EMF generated from a boiled potato as compared to a fresh potato.
Thus the EMF generated from one potato is because of the potential difference created by the electrodes as in the above mentioned cases. But since the number of potatoes remains constant, the reacting species also is constant, i.e. when two potatoes are used, each potato will have an zinc and copper plate, and thus when the zinc gets oxidized by the potatoes, same electrons will enter the iron electrode from the copper, thus EMF generated should be same. But this is where my experiment differs.
MY ORIGINALITY: Experiments have already been conducted on fresh potatoes and the induced EMF but, I planned to boil my potatoes and observe the readings of the EMF generated and compare the results obtained from performing the experiment with raw potatoes. The potatoes by default will be similar and will be microwaved in KCl solution for scientific vigor, and then after certain attainment of room temperature, the EMF generated will be recorded. The readings and the graph will make clear weather the boiling of potatoes changes the EMF and what makes the EMF generated to change.
MY HYPOTHESIS The induced EMF generated from the experiment being performed with boiled potatoes compared to raw potatoes will decrease since the concentration of phosphoric acid will decrease, since the potatoes are boiled in aqueous solution, thus diluting the already present phosphoric acid, and thus since the concentration of the electrolyte decreases so will the rate of oxidization and reduction, eventually leading to the decrease in the EMF generated. The GAII may also play a part since when the potatoes are boiled the inner temperature of the potato increases causing denaturation and this might affect the flow of electrons thereby affecting the EMF generated.
METHOD Battery Design
Commercially available potatoes were used throughout, due to ease of accessibility and for economic factors. The mineral composition of the potatoes has been given in Table 1 of the appendix. I compared the EMF generated from cells made of potatoes treats as follows
Raw/Fresh/untreated
Boiled/treated
For the preparation of the Galvanic cell, the potatoes in both cases were cut into 5x2x2cm and were sandwiched between the Iron and Copper plates.
Potato Denaturation by Boiling
I compared the electrical energy generated from untreated potatoes compared to that of treated potatoes. For scientific vigour, I immersed the sliced potatoes in 1 mol dm-3 KCl solution and microwaved at 800W for 5 minutes.
Measurement of EMF
The amount of EMF (V) generated was evaluated using a Vernier Lab Quest connected to the cell. The measurement was also taken for Current (I) and Power (P). These measurements were taken over a period of 2 hours over a constant load of equal resistance. In order to prevent the potato coming in contact with air it was covered with Parafilm in order to reduce drying and oxidation.
VARIABLES INDEPENDANT VARIABLES:
The independent variable in this experiment is the potatoes, or the state of the potatoes i.e. boiled or fresh. Thus the experiment will be carried out with fresh potatoes, and then further into boiled potatoes.,
For similar concentration, and volume of acid in potatoes, similar sized potatoes were taken so that the result will not deviate.
The potatoes act as independent batteries, providing induced EMF as they are connected in series. The reason they act as a battery is because the copper and zinc electrode undergo redox reactions in the presence of the acid which acts as an electrolyte, which creates a potential difference and this is calculated to be EMF
DEPENDANT VARIABLES:
The dependant variable is the EMF generated by the potatoes when arranged in series.
It will be measured with a Vernier Lab Quest which is connected to the computer
The potential difference will be calculated, between the two extremes of the electrodes (anode and cathode => Zinc and copper plate). This given criteria is same for both the set up.
The unit of measure is the Volt. The readings will be taken for two hours for each.
CONTROLLED VARIABLES: The apparatus used was same throughout the experiment, since this will reduce mean deviation and the calculations will be done with respect to the other readings therefore, error is less
The temperature in the room was controlled and was kept at 300K and this is with respect to the room temperature and not the temperature of the potato.
The arrangement of the potatoes and the beakers was done in series since that would accurately judge between the EMF discrepancies between boiled and unoiled potatoes.
Similar sized potatoes were taken in the hopes that the concentration of phosphoric acid would be similar; therefore the readings will not have much discrepancy relative to each other.
When the potatoes were boiled, all were boiled to the same temperature, for the same amount of time, and were removed from the water bath at approximately the same time
The apparatus was cleaned thoroughly before performing each experiment so as to reduce discrepancies in the readings, with respect to other readings.
The amount of insertion of the Iron and copper into the potato was same throughout all the experiments at 3±0.1cm.
The potatoes were all sliced up into the following dimension 5 x 2 x 2 cm and were sandwiched between the electrodes.
The part of the potato exposed to the air was covered with Parafilm in order to prevent the potato from drying and reduction.
CONSTANT VARIABLE: The copper plate and the iron nails used were the same throughout the experiment, so was the location where the experiment took place so as to keep all errors due to pressure and temperature constant.
The same water bath was used to boil the potatoes, in order to keep the potatoes at constant temperature with regard to each other.
The time taken for recording the EMF generated from the potatoes in both cases was taken as 2 hours.
DATA AND GRAPHS ACTUAL REACTIONS TAKING PLACE
Oxidation:
Zn: Zn Zn 2e- , E0 = 0.76V,
Reduction:
Cu: 2H 2e- H2 , E0 = 0.00V
Overall:
Zn 2H Zn H2, ∆ E0 = 0.76V
REASON FOR THE REACTIONS AND ANALYSIS OF DATA My results conclude that Zn electrode and the reduction of hydrogen at the Cu electrode are the dominating reactions which give rise to EMF, Current Density and the potential difference.
Maximum power delivered by boiled potato cells with ruptured membranes may reach values an order of magnitude higher than that generated by untreated potato. When the data was compared, a direct relationship between the ability of the potato battery to deliver power and GAII (Galvanic apparent internal impedance, a trait related to both the salt bridge function of a given tissue delineated between electrodes and to the “battery internal resistance” properties) becomes evident. The significant increase in electric energy generation with membrane destruction shows that the ionic diffusivity through the tissue bridge between electrodes is the reason behind this phenomenon, as effective diffusivity of protons increases with membrane rupture. In contrast, the rate of proton flux is reduced when cell membranes are intact probably due to the tortuosity of the extracellular space as well as the equivalent reduction in the concentration of the electrolytes per unit volume when the intracellular fluids do not actively participate in the ionic transport.
CONCLUSION: From the data and the graphs it is clearly visible that my hypothesis was inaccurate, since the EMF generated did not decrease with the boiling of potatoes, but increased and also lasted longer under the same external load compared to the fresh potato. The potato serves only as a medium for the movements of electrons from the zinc electrode. The potato supplies the protons thus generating electricity. Fresh potatoes do it, but the strong internal resistance makes it very inefficient. Boiling the potato destroys membranes and possibly some part of the cell walls, thus reducing significantly the internal resistance and increase 10 folds the generation of power. The bio electrolytic low power electrical energy source introduced in this study brings an dimension to the utilization of the globally fourth most abundant crop accessible essentially all over the world, made of solid components and requires low financial investment compared with solar or conventional batteries.
EVALUATION: The experiment was conducted in a non-ideal conditions which could lead to errors:~
Systematic Error:
The Parafilm had foreign bodies or had an unwanted flaw which could have not given me an accurate reading
The reading of the electronic balance may also have a manufacturing defect, thereby leading to a difference in the times taken.
The lab quest may be defective or may have been inaccurate which may have given inaccurate results.
The microwave may not have operated throughout the five minutes at 800W, thus leading to a variation in the temperature achieved by the potato in order to break the cell membrane.
Random Errors:
There might have been a gap or hole in the Parafilm leading to increased drying of the potato thereby affecting the EMF generated.
Human parallax error when adjusting the volume of the solutions by taking only the lower meniscus.
The apparatus used may contain remnants of other chemicals leading to an impure solution.
The temperature of the room was taken to be constant, but there might have been fluctuation in the actual temperature thus leading to heat loss, and null results.
The electronic balance might not have been zeroed out to take the new reading or might have had impurities which could have given inaccurate readings
The microwave may not have run for exactly 5 minutes, thus leading to different boiling degrees
EMF of the potato was taken every 3 seconds from the start of the reaction and thus the increase/decrease would not be exactly accurate, leading to a discrepancy in data.

Quality of Artesian Water | Analysis

Evaluation of the microbiological and physicochemical quality of Artesian well water used for irrigation in ArRiyadh
Sulaiman Ali Alharbi1*, M.E.Zayed1, Arunachalam Chinnathambi1, Naiyf S. Alharbi1 and Milton Wainwright1,2
Abstract
The quality of water from artesian wells used for irrigation was analyzed. Water samples were collected from 12 wells from different farms along a 8.5 km transect of the Hayer which is an area located approximately 35 km south of ArRiyadh. The major parameters for assessment of the groundwater quality used here were analysis of the major cations (K , Na and NH4 ) and the major anions (Cl-, SO42-, NO3- and PO43-). A total dissolved solid (TDS) is a summation of the all major constituents. pH, temperature and electrical conductivity (EC) were also measured as important indicators of groundwater quality. The samples were also tested for the presence of total and fecal coliforms bacteria. All the samples were free from contamination by coliforms bacteria; the physicochemical parameters of the all of the samples were not however, within the acceptable limits prescribed by WHO and FAO.
Key words: Physicochemical quality, Artesian well water quality, Irrigation, coliforms, Cations
Introduction Water from rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and groundwater aquifers is an essential human resource and is needed for direct consumption as well as for recreational purposes1. Groundwater is a vital source for fresh water in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding Gulf states2; groundwater being the major source of both potable and irrigation waters in Saudi Arabia. As the population of Saudi continues to increase, especially in the big cities such as ArRiyadh, the demand for adequate and high-quality groundwater resources continues to increase. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (about 2.25 million km2) is one of hottest and most arid countries in the world, with an average summer temperatures of 46oC and an average rainfall of 120 mm per year over most of the country2. The available surface water and groundwater resources is limited, precipitation rates are low, while evaporation is high. With increasing population and agricultural use there is an increasing need for high quality water in Saudi Arabia 3.
The total population of Saudi Arabia has increased from about 7.7 million in 1970 to 11.8 million in 1990 and is expected to reach 19 million in 2010, if the present growth rate of 3 per cent per annum continues. Consequently, domestic water demand has increased from about 446 MCM in 1980 to about 1,563 MCM in 1997, and is expected to reach 2,800 MCM in 20104,5. Agriculture accounts for some 88% of water use, while industry consumes only around 3%6. Saudi Arabia faces severe water problems and as a result, is in need of new water policies to achieve sustainable development in its harsh environment. Problems include balancing supply and demand while facing aridity and water scarcity, nonrenewable supplies, poor quality of ground water, poor distribution of supplies, salt water intrusion, and the overuse and contamination of aquifers7.
Available water resources in Saudi Arabia are a) conventional, i.e. groundwater and surface water, and b) non-conventional such as desalinated seawater and treated waste water. About 88 percent of the water consumption in Saudi Arabia is met from groundwater supplies2.Groundwater is generally presumed to be ideal for human consumption and is used as a potential source of drinking water, agricultural development, urbanization and industrialization8. Around 47% of the water supplied in ArRiyadh is groundwater pumped from local aquifers9.
It is estimated that 18% of worldwide cropland is irrigated, producing 40% of all food. Irrigation water and any foliar applied water, in intimate contact to the developing or mature edible portions of fresh produce, is likely to lead to contamination with human waste, although irrigation using surface water is likely to pose a greater risk to human health than irrigation water obtained from deep aquifers drawn from properly constructed and protected wells10.
Water-borne pathogens infect around 250 million people and result in 10 to 20 million deaths world-wide each year. An estimated 80% of all illness in developing countries is related to water and sanitation, with some 5% of all child deaths under the age of five years occurring in developing countries resulting from diarrheal diseases 11,12. Pathogens pose a risk to human health as a result of the various uses of water (Figure 2). For example, it was suggested that contaminated irrigation water was a possible source of a recent outbreak of E. coli across USA13. Fruit and vegetables are frequently contaminated impacted by fecally-polluted irrigation water14. As a general rule, surface water resources are more susceptible to microbial contamination than are groundwater supplies. Microbial contamination introduced through sprinkler irrigation systems may also affect the surface of a crop for varying periods of time, and the risk is increased when the irrigated crop is consumed raw and sometimes unwashed15.
Pathogen-contamination of fresh, ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables is a significant issue in agriculture. In many cases, fecal-oral pathogens such as toxin-producing E. coli, Salmonella spp., and norovirus are the causative agents16. Fecally contaminated irrigation water is frequently a possible or likely source of contamination of fresh, ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables17. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)18, at least 12 percent of foods borne outbreaks during the 1990s were attributable to fresh produce, and the economic cost of food borne illness is estimated at around $10 to $83 billion per year19.
Water is subject to varying degrees of fecal pollution, and consequently fresh waters are a vector transmission of many pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Fecal pollution can reach water resources as the result of human activities, such as sewage treatment plants and communities where sewage treatment is not available. Many diseases are related to fecal polluted water, but the majority is caused by enteropathogenic microorganisms, and not surprisingly therefore, the presence of enteric pathogens in waters is of considerable concern. For this reason, maintaining the microbiological safety of water is very important issue relating to the protection of public health1. Washing and disinfection practices are less effective against pathogens which in penetrate the plant interior20., and for this reason the prevention of water-borne contamination is considered to be an important primary means of controlling health risk associated with food borne pathogens19.
The quality and safety of farm irrigation water determines the quality and safety of the resultant crop, and the safety of water depends on its source. Human pathogens can be introduced into irrigation water via run-off of manure from animal production facilities, from domestic/urban sewage systems or directly from wildlife. Extreme rainfall (which lead to storm overflows), spills of manure, or human waste can all increase the probability of the occurrence of contamination21. The quality of water needed for various uses is determined by its physical characteristics, chemical composition, biological parameters and the conditions of use and all surface or sub-surface waters contain varying amounts of salts which increase in irrigated soil due to evaporation.
The aim of the work reported here was to determine the microbiological and physicochemical quality of waters obtained from artesian wells used for irrigation near the city of Riyadh.
Materials and methods Description of the artesian wells:
The samples were taken from wells of depth ranging from (60-100 m); some wells were open while others were closed.
Sampling collection:
Sampling: All ground water sampling (chemical or microbial) was conducted with the existing well pumps which were run for a sufficient time (10-15 minutes) in order to replace the old water in the pipes with fresh water and thereby obtain reliably stable readings of pH, specific conductance and temperature. Well water depths were measured with a graduated (l/l00th foot) steel tape.
A total of three water samples were collected from 12 different wells located in different farms along a 8.5 km transect of the Hayer, which is an area located some 35 km south of Riyadh, during November 2010. The water samples were collected in plastic bottles, pH, EC and TDS were measured on site; samples were subsequently transported to the laboratory in an ice box. Each sample was divided into three portions; one for cation analysis, one for anion determinations and the third for coliform analysis. The concentration of total dissolved ions, Na, K, P, Cl, S04, NH4 and N03 were determined. The analytical procedures used for these determinations were those described in standard methods or the examination of water and wastewater.
The evaluation of the suitability of groundwater for irrigation purpose is based here on the irrigation water specification provided by the Saudi Arabian Standards organization (SASO), irrigation water standards 1993, and water quality for use in agriculture by the FAO (1994). (Table 1) shows the concentration (mg/l) of individual constituents, groundwater, hardness, electrical conductance and pH of the groundwater.
Coliform determination:
Sample Preparation:
The samples were diluted in the range- 10-1 to 10-6 and the original water sample were aseptically diluted into 9 ml buffered peptone prepared in three series. The number of total and fecal coliforms was determined using the MPN method and statistical tables were used to interpret the results. From each dilution, 1ml was removed and added aseptically to triplicate tubes containing 5ml of lauryl tryptose broth (LSB). The tubes were then incubated at 37 °C for 48 hours. Tubes showing color change or gas production were recorded as positive, and the number of positive tubes at each dilution was referred to MPN tables to obtain the number of bacteria present in the original sample.
Results and Discussion Microbiological analysis:
None of the water samples obtained from any of the wells contained coliforms, a fact which shows that the general sanitary conditions around the wells are excellent.
Analysis of physicochemical parameters:
Physical Characteristics:
Table 1 shows the laboratory determinations used, together with the acceptable range to evaluate common irrigation water quality, as prepared by FAO 1994.
Table 1. Laboratory determinations used to evaluate common irrigation water quality problems.
Water parameter
Symbol
Unit1
Usual range in irrigation water
SALINITY
Salt content
Electrical Conductivity
ECw
dS/m
0 – 3
dS/m
(or)
Total Dissolved Solids
TDS
mg/l
0 – 2000
mg/l
Cations and anions
Calcium
Ca
me/l
0 – 20
me/l
Magnesium
Mg
me/l
0 – 5
me/l
Sodium
Na
me/l
0 – 40
me/l
Carbonate
CO–3
me/l
0 – .1
me/l
Bicarbonate
HCO3-
me/l
0 – 10
me/l
Chloride
Cl-
me/l
0 – 30
me/l
Sulphate
SO4–
me/l
0 – 20
me/l
NUTRIENTS2
Nitrate-Nitrogen
NO3-N
mg/l
0 – 10
mg/l
Ammonium-Nitrogen
NH4-N
mg/l
0 – 5
mg/l
Phosphate-Phosphorus
PO4-P
mg/l
0 – 2
mg/l
Potassium
K
mg/l
0 – 2
mg/l
MISCELLANEOUS
Boron
B
mg/l
0 – 2
mg/l
Acid/basicity
pH
1-14
6.0 – 8.5
Sodium Adsorption Ratio3
SAR
(me/l)1, 2
0 – 15
1 dS/m = deciSiemen/metre in S.I. units (equivalent to 1 mmho/cm = 1 millimmho/centi-metre)
mg/l = milligram per litre ≃ parts per million (ppm).
me/l = milliequivalent per litre (mg/l ÷ equivalent weight = me/l); in SI units, 1 me/l= 1 millimol/litre adjusted for electron charge.
Table 2. Physical parameters of analyzed groundwater samples
Sample ID
Parameters
Temperature
(Degree Celsius)
pH
E.C*
(ms/cm)
T.D.S**
(mg/L)
Turbidity
(NTU)
Total Hardness
(mg/L as CaCO3)
A
25.0
8.15
3.87
2476
11.30
1800
B
25.5
8.13
8.89
5689
28.70
3000
C
24.5
8.17
4.48
2867
20.50
1200
D
25.5
7.98
3.74
2393
18.00
1400
E
23.5
8.19
5.49
3513
6.24
1000
F
24.5
8.05
9.41
6022
2.98
2600
G
28.0
8.02
9.19
5881
0.73
2800
H
25.0
7.84
10.78
6899
21.90
3600
I
26.5
8.29
9.41
6022
0.94
3200
J
26.0
8.07
10.29
6585
5.78
3200
K
27.0
8.06
11.13
7123
12.30
3800
L
27.0
8.11
10.16
6502
5.63
3600
* E.C = Electrical Conductivity ** T.D.S = Total Dissolved Solids
Table 2 shows the physical parameters of the groundwater samples; the data reveals the following:
pH:
The pH values of all gr the groundwater samples tested was alkaline (around 8); a pH which is generally not conducive to optimal crop plant growth
Total dissolved solids (TDS) :
Suspended solids and total dissolved solids (TDS) are indicators of polluted water. The value for TDS of the samples ranged from 2393-7123 mg/l. Most of these values are outside the standard values generally considered to be suitable for irrigation purposes. TDS values exceeding 3000 mg/l are high values for irrigation of some crop types. The high TDS values found in groundwater sampled from the study area are likely to be due to high concentrations of sodium, chloride, sulfate and nitrate.
Conductivity:
Electrical conductivity gives a measure of all of the dissolved ions in solution. Electrical conductivity values measured in this study varied from 3.74 to 11.13 ms/cm with sample-K exhibiting the highest conductivity (11.13) and sample D the lowest, (3.74). The acceptable limit of conductivity is 1.5 ms /cm22. Generally, the conductivity of clean water is lower but as water moves down the soil profile it leaches and dissolves ions and also picks up organic from the biota and detritus23. Generally the conductivity values recorded for wells sampled here were not within the acceptable limit prescribed by WHO and FAO limits.
Total Water Hardness: Water hardness is primarily a measure of the amount of calcium and magnesium, and to a lesser extent, iron in a water sample. Water hardness is measured by summing the concentrations of calcium, magnesium and converting this value to an equivalent concentration of calcium carbonate (CaCO3); a value which is expressed in milligrams per liter (mg/L) of water. Water with hardness greater than 200 mg/L is considered to be of poor quality and water with hardness greater than 500 mg/L is normally considered to be unacceptable for domestic purposes. The analyzed samples for hardness, had hardness concentrations ranges between 1200 to 3800 mg/L been found then the samples would be assessed as belonging to the fourth category with very hard water and unacceptable for domestic purpose without treatment.
Cations and anion loads of the groundwater samples:
Table 3 shows the cations and anions loads of groundwater samples, the data shows the following:
Sodium:
An infiltration problem related to water quality occurs when the normal infiltration rate for the applied water or rainfall is appreciably reduced and water remains on the soil surface for long periods, or infiltrates too slowly to supply the crop with sufficient water to maintain acceptable yields. The infiltration rate of water into soil varies widely and can be greatly influenced by the quality of the irrigation water. The two most common water quality factors which influence the normal infiltration rate are water salinity (total quantity of salts in the water) and sodium content relative to the content of calcium and magnesium. Water which is highly saline will increase infiltration, while a low salinity water, or a sample with high sodium to calcium ratio will decrease infiltration; both of these factors may operate simultaneously. One serious side effect of an infiltration problem is the potential to develop plant disease and vector (mosquito) problems.
An infiltration problem related to water quality in most cases occurs in the surface few centimetres of soil and is linked to the structural stability of this surface soil and its low calcium content relative to that of sodium. When a soil is irrigated with sodium-rich water, a high sodium surface soil develops which weakens soil structure. The surface soil aggregates then disperse into much smaller particles which clog soil pores. The problem may also be caused by an extremely low calcium content of the surface soil. In some cases, water low in salt can cause a similar problem but this is related to the corrosive nature of the low salt water and not to the sodium content of the water or soil. In the case of the low salt water, the water dissolves and leaches most of the soluble minerals, including calcium, from the surface soil. Analyses of the ground water samples tested here shows that that all have sodium ranges over 500 (mg/L);sodium contents greater than 500 mg/L are normally considered unacceptable for irrigation according to water quality standards used by the FAO for agricultural use.
Table 3. Cations and anion loads of the groundwater samples
Sample ID
Parameters
Sodium
Na
(mg/L)
Potassium
K
(mg/L)
Phosphorus
P
(mg/L)
Sulphate
SO4
(mg/L)
Ammonia
NH3
(mg/L)
Nitrate
NO3
(mg/L)
Chloride
Cl
(mg/L)
A
500
17.0
0.53
1437
0
2.0
1250
B
1375
28.0
0.37
3275
0
10.0
2500
C
750
15.0
0.15
1302
0
5.5
1500
D
500
15.0
0.11
1380
0
2.0
1250
E
750
23.0
0.10
1607
0
4.0
1500
F
1500
27.0
0.00
3675
0
3.5
2850
G
1375
26.0
0.33
3275
0
13.5
2500
H
1375
27.0
0.25
2587
0
49.5
3000
I
1125
30.0
0.81
1737
0
138.0
2750
J
1375
27.0
0.00
2987
0
35.0
2750
K
1375
31.0
0.00
3075
0
142.0
3250
L
1125
30.0
0.25
1595
0
158.0
3000
Nitrates:
The nitrate content of the analyzed groundwater samples ranges between 2 mg/l in well A and D and reaches a maximum of 158mg/l in well L .Many of the sampled groundwater wells contain nitrate exceeding the guideline values for irrigation water prescribed by FAO (0-10 mg/l), with most of the nitrogen present being probably derived from the biosphere. The nitrogen originally fixed from the atmosphere, is mineralized by soil bacteria into ammonium, which is converted into nitrate by nitrifying bacteria under aerobic conditions24.
The main sources of nitrate result from either natural or anthropogenic activities – rainfall and dry fall out, soil nitrogen, nitrate deposit, sewage, septic tank and animal waste, manure or compost, green manure and plant residues, atmospheric nitrogen fixation, fertilizer nitrogen from irrigated overflow water outlets and industrial effluent25. Nitrate is the end product of the oxidation of nitrogen in the environment. Particularly high nitrate concentrations indicate pollution from either sewage or agricultural fertilizer waste. Nitrate is without doubt an essential plant nutrient, but is equally a potential threat to human health when present in excess concentrations in the drinking water 26. The data obtained from the samples tested here shows that the ground waters examined contain high level of nitrate, concentrations which exceed the permissible limits for drinking purposes (Table 3).
Ammonia:
The term ammonia includes the non-ionized (NH3) and ionized (NH4 ) species. Ammonia originates in the environment from metabolic, agricultural and industrial processes and from disinfection with chloramines. Natural levels in groundwater and surface water are usually below 0.2 mg/liter27. Anaerobic ground waters may contain up to 3mg/liter. Intensive rearing of farm animals can give rise to much higher levels in surface water. Ammonia contamination can also arise from cement m

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