The Effect of Irradiation on Vegetables

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Author: Muriel Gerhard



High School

Difficulty of Project



$20 - $30

Safety Issues

Wear safety glasses, apron and plastic gloves.

Material Availability

Irradiated seeds are readily available from Carolina Biological Supply Company and other supplies may be obtained from local gardener`s center.

Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project

One month. This includes experimentation, collection, recording and analysis of data, summary of results and completion of bibliography.


To determine the effect of irradiation on the germination and growth of vegetables such as the tomato plant.  Will the seeds germinate faster and will the tomatoes be larger?

Materials and Equipment Required

  • 8 plastic cups
  • vermiculite
  • soil
  • irradiated tomato seeds
  • regular tomato seeds
  • paper towels
  • labels
  • a pencil
  • water
  • a watering can
  • a metric ruler
  • data chart


Background Information

On the information level, this experiment serves to acquaint students with current information  on the effects of irradiation on the germination and growth of vegetables. Students will learn that irradiation is a process of exposing fruits, vegetables and numerous other foods to gamma and other types of radiation. In many cases the purpose is to remove harmful bacteria as well as pathogens. To date, there has been little agreement as to the benefits derived from this process. This is an area in which further research is required and welcomed.

This science fair experiment also serves to acquaint students with the essential processes of sciencing such as the importance of the use of a control, of identifying dependent and independent variables, of data collection, of pictorial and or graphic presentation of data and of being able to make better judgments as to the validity and reliability of their findings.  They take on the role of scientists and in the process they learn to act as one.

Research Terms

  • irradiation  
  • alpha particles
  • beta particles
  • gamma rays
  • gamma decay  
  • radioactivity
  • nuclear decay  
  • radio isotope  
  • radiation

Research Questions

  • What is radiation?
  • What is irradiation?
  • What are the three major types of radiation?
  • What are beta particles?
  • What is gamma decay?
  • What is the radiation absorbed dose?
  • What are the benefits of irradiating vegetables and other foods?
  • What are the risks in irradiating foods?  

Terms, Concepts and Questions to Start Background Research

  • What is a control?  A control is the variable that is not changed in the experiment.
  • What purpose does a control serve? It is used to make comparisons as to what changed or possibly caused the change.
  • What are variables?  Variables are factors that can be changed in an experiment.
  • What is an independent variable? The independent variable is the one that is changed in the experiment.
  • What is a dependent variable? The dependent variable is the one that changes as a result of the change in the independent variable.


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