Effect of Radiation on Germination - Knowledgebase Question

Orange, MA
Question by koonz
December 8, 1997
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?


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Answer from NGA
December 8, 1997

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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.

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.

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!

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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