The Q&A Archives: Effect of Radiation on Germination

Question: My son has chosen to expose tomato seeds to X-Rays as part of his seventh grade science project. He will do this at our dentists. Do you have any or know of any research regarding the effects of X-Ray or Gamma radiation on germination or growth?

Answer: You might search the internet. I did a search using Yahoo and the words "seeds" and "radiation" and came up with some interesting sites. (Unfortunately, when I tried to visit one about a 7th grader's science experiment, I couldn'tget into the page...maybe you'll have better luck.) I don't know of any studies in particular, but you might also search various university sites, especially ones with good plant science departments like Cornell. They may publish their research papers on-line.<br><br>I think it's useful to consider just why this information (whether radiation affects germination) would be useful. There is, in particular, lots of controversy right now over irradiated food--including questions about pest mutations, damage to the food's nutrient qualities, etc. Local health food stores may have some information about this topic.<br><br>We often get questions from students trying different methods of pre-treating seeds and evaluating germination, and I'm always curious why that's such a popular topic. If the idea is to improve germination using radiation to decrease pest problems--well, few pests are actually carried on the seed itself (most germination-inhibiting diseases are carried in the soil). I like to see students understand plants by experimenting with various natural factors that affect germination (rather than artificial factors like irradiation)--such as amount of water, temperature, environmental pollutants, etc. This helps students make connections between plants and the environment, and helps foster an interest in ecology--the interconnections between all living things. But that's just my opinion!<br><br>If you search our database with the word "experiment" you should find a few questions/answers dealing with science experiements. I hope you find this helpful.

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