The Q&A Archives: Effects of Microwaves on Bean Seeds

Question: I'm a sixth grade student doing a science fair experiment on the effects of microwave heat on Kentucky Blue' bean seeds. I microwaved two seeds for 10, 20, and 30 seconds. I was wondering what you thought would happen. What are the growth stages ofbean seeds? I think I am overwatering on the seeds, since only one grew. What do you think happened? I would appreciate any information on my experiment you have. Michael Dooling Middlebury, CT

Answer: At some point, the microwaves, or the heat induced by them, will kill the bean embryo inside the seed. I don't know how long that would take; it would depend on the strength of the microwaves plus how many seeds were in it plus how they were placed inthe appliance (microwaves tend to heat unevenly it seems). Since only one grew, it is possible that you have overwatered, and the seed is rotting in the soil. But there are many other possiblities -- such as the seed that grew was the only one to survive the microwaving, or not all the seeds were viable (able to grow) in the first place. This is why scientists must repeat experiments over and over before they can come to any conclusions. Can you repeat the experiment, this time with 3 (or more) sets of seeds? (That is, microwave 3 seeds for 10 seconds, 3 for 20, etc. and plant them all.) When you are doing the experiment, be sure to keep all the other variables (besides length of time in the microwave) the same. All containers should receivethe same amount of water and light, for example.

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