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Grace Ling- York House School, VANCOUVER Silver Medal Winners - Junior Biotechnology (2003)

The purpose of my project was to find out what kind of treatment would make plant seeds germinate faster as this would be good for food production. The two treatments I chose were heat and moisture, or infrared light. Gardeners often recommend heat and moisture, while a scientist, Dr. Vladimir Vasilenko reported that infrared light made some seeds germinate faster.

For my experiments, I used an infrared lamp. I placed it above the seeds and let it irradiate 50 seeds for several minutes.  For the heat and moisture treated seeds, I put the seeds on a damp paper towel on a heating pad set at 32 degrees Celsius for overnight. The seeds were planted at the same time, at 2 cm below the soil. I also included 50 untreated control seeds, to compare the two treatments with. The trays the seeds were planted in were placed under a grow light. I recorded all the germinations.

I observed that four days after the seeds had been planted that there were only a few sprouts in the heat and moisture, and in the control, but all 50 infrared treated seeds had germinated in one day! I followed the growth of the plants and found that the height of the infrared treated radishes was less varied compared to the control group and the heat plus moisture group, probably because they all germinated on the same day. For the radishes, it was obvious that infrared light was better than the gardener’s myth about heat and moisture.

Although infrared light might have succeeded in improving the rate of radish germination, I still had questions. Would infrared light work on other plants? I decided to test peas, carrots, morning glories, turnips, onions, parsley, and peppers. I went through the same procedure as the radishes: 7 minutes of infrared light, 46 centimeters away, etc, but this time I only used a control, and infrared light treated seeds.

There was no difference between the untreated and the treated morning glories and parsley, so they were classified as ‘infrared immune’, meaning the light had no effect on them. The treated turnips were not as fast in germination as the controls. Therefore they were classified as ‘infrared sensitive’, meaning that the light had slowed down the germination rate. The treated peas and onions appeared to be doing slightly better than the control, so I classified them as slightly ‘infrared responsive’, meaning that the infrared light had boosted germination just a little bit. The treated carrots were much better than the control, so they were ‘infrared responsive’. Lastly, the treated peppers were doing much better than the controls, going from 1:0, to 13:2. They appeared to be highly ‘infrared responsive’.

My conclusions are:

Judging by the different plants I have tested, they can be grouped into one of three categories: infrared responsive, immune, or sensitive.
More experiments would need to be done to determine the best time of irradiation for each seed type.
Grace Ling

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