The Effect of Microwaves on Plant Seeds

Written by sean russell
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The Effect of Microwaves on Plant Seeds
Seeds are affected by microwave radiation. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Microwaves are electromagnetic waves that we use to transmit data or to cook food by exciting and irradiating electrons in the food. Intense microwave radiation can also affect the rate at which plants grow and whether or not seeds will sprout. Microwave radiation affects seeds differently when it irradiates the seed itself and when it irradiates the water or soil the seed uses to grow.

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Microwaves often cook seeds when microwave ovens heat up green beans, peas or other cold and sometimes raw fruits and vegetables. These seeds, like pumpkin seeds that have been in the oven, can no longer sprout, but have been essentially cooked and are only good for food stock. Seeds that have been subjected to microwave radiation, even when not microwaved for food purposes, have a similar reaction.

A study completed by the Environmentors' Program irradiated couch grass seeds with microwaves to study their germination. The study found that germination itself was terminated in cases of heavy exposure to microwaves and sprouting of the seed markedly decreased in all cases where the seed had been directly irradiated with microwaves before planting.


Although radiation has a detrimental effect on seeds in a direct microwave application, integral partners in a seed's eventual development can also be irradiated. Water, for example, is as integral to a seed's germination as the seed itself and has also been irradiated in experiments with very different results.

Plants that ingested microwaved water grew consistently faster and taller than those that had no exposure to microwave radiation. The water was microwaved, allowed to cool and then fed to the seeds which sprouted faster and taller than the control which was not microwaved.


Unless they have a hydroponic growing system, seeds need soil to sprout. The Environmentors' experiment also irradiated soil and produced mixed results with a wide fluctuation regarding factors such as sprout emergence, general growth and plant development.

The experiment found one general consistency in the length of time the soil was microwaved: the longer a soil sample was microwaved, the shorter the plant that would develop in that soil environment. This would suggest a lack of nutrients in soil that has been exposed to high amounts of microwave radiation.

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