Microwave Plant Experiment: Radish Seed Germination

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Author: Beth Touchette

The sprouting of seeds is called germination. A germinating seed has a baby plant, called an embryo, on its surface. This tiny living thing gets its nutrients from the cotyledon, which is the fleshy part of seed. The cotyledon may or may not be in two pieces. As the plant embryo matures, the downward growing part becomes the root system, whereas the upward growing part becomes the shoot system. The cotyledon sustains the baby plant until it bursts through the top of soil and starts using the sun to make its own food.

Seed Parts Diagram

Germination is an intricate process, and many factors, including lack of water or strong chemicals, can prevent it. Microwaves also can affect the germination of seeds. The microwaves emitted by a microwave oven are a form of radiant energy that fats and water in particular absorb. This absorbed energy can warm up your food, but what effect would it have on a radish seed? Would microwaving a seed help or hinder its growth?

Problem: How do microwaves affect radish seed germination?


  • Ruler
  • Aluminum foil
  • Scissors
  • Paper towels
  • Labels or masking tape
  • Permanent marker
  • Microwave oven
  • Microwave safe coffee cup
  • Radish seeds
  • Another microwave safe container
  • Hot mitt
  • Spray bottle
  • Water
  • Box or drawer
  • Dropper


  1. Using the ruler, cut out seven 20 cm x 16 cm rectangles of aluminum foil.
  2. Cut six rectangles of paper towel, 18 cm x 15 cm.
  3. Make the labels for your experiment on the paper towels: 0 seconds, 30 seconds, I minute, 2 minutes, 4 minutes, and 8 minutes.
  4. Make creases in the paper towel pieces by folding them into thirds, each 6 cm long.
  5. Set a paper towel in the middle of one piece of aluminum foil.
  6. Using the spray bottle, spray the paper towel until all of it is moist, but not dripping wet.
  7. Make a line of about 10 radish seeds down the center of the paper towel.
  8. Fold the foil around the paper towel. 
  9. Write “0 seconds” on a label and place it on the foil packet. This will be your control group.
  10. Fill the coffee cup with water and place it in microwave. This cup will absorb any excess energy caused by the microwaving of the seeds. Don’t forget this step!
  11. Put about 10 radish seeds into the dry microwave safe container. 
  12. Set the timer for 15 seconds, make sure you have both the radish cup and water cup inside, set the power to high, and hit start.
  13. After the seeds have been microwaved, remove them and place them on another paper towel bed and foil. Label with the 15 seconds label.
  14. Dump out the water in the cup and put in new cool water.
  15. Repeat the procedure microwaving radish seeds for 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, 4 minutes, and 8 minutes. 
  16. Place the foil packets in a box or drawer.
  17. Check the 0 seconds packet for germination after two to three days. If no seeds have started sprouting, rewrap and check again every day until you see germination.
  18. You might need to spray the paper towel with more water if it’s dry.
  19. If the 0 seeds have started sprouting, check the other seeds. Record your results this data table:

Time Microwaved

Notes on Growth

0 seconds


15 seconds


30 seconds


1 minute


2 minutes


4 minutes


8 minutes



  1. Keep observing the germinating plants for at least four more days.  Note any differences in how long it takes the seeds to germinate and root or shoot system growth.
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