Effect of microwave radiation on seed mortality of rubber vine (Cryptostegia grandiflora R.Br.), parthenium (Parthenium hysterophorous L.) and bellyache bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia L.)

F.F. BebawiA,D, A.P. CooperB, G.I. BrodieB, B.A. MadiganA, J.S. VitelliA,D, K.J. WorsleyC and K.M. DavisA

A Tropical Weeds Research Centre, Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Charters Towers, Queensland 4820, Australia.

B Dookie Campus, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3647, Australia.

C Parks and Landscaping, Thuringowa City Council, Kirwan, Queensland 4817, Australia.

D CRC for Australian Weed Management.


A trial was undertaken to evaluate the effect of microwaves on seed mortality of three weed species. Seeds of rubber vine (Cryptostegia grandiflora R.Br.), parthenium (Parthenium hysterophorous L.) and bellyache bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia L.) were buried at six depths (0, 2.5, 5, 10, 20 and 40 cm) in coarse sand maintained at one of two moisture levels, oven dry or wet (field capacity), and then subjected to one of five microwave radiation durations of (0, 2, 4, 8 and 16 min).

Significant interactions between soil moisture level, microwave radiation duration, seed burial depth and species were detected for mortality of seeds of all three species. Maximum seed mortality of rubber vine (88%), parthenium (67%) and bellyache bush (94%) occurred in wet soil irradiated for 16 min. Maximum seed mortality of rubber vine and bellyache bush seeds occurred in seeds buried at 2.5 cm depth whereas that of parthenium occurred in seeds buried at 10 cm depth. Maximum soil temperatures of 114.1 and 87.5°C in dry and wet soil respectively occurred at 2.5 cm depth following 16 min irradiation. Irrespective of the greater soil temperatures recorded in dry soil, irradiating seeds in wet soil generally increased seed mortality 2.9-fold compared with dry soil. Moisture content of wet soil averaged 5.7% compared with 0.1% for dry soil.

Results suggest that microwave radiation has the potential to kill seeds located in the soil seed bank. However, many factors, including weed species susceptibility, determine the effectiveness of microwave radiation on buried seeds. Microwave radiation may be an alternative to conventional methods at rapidly depleting soil seed banks in the field, particularly in relatively wet soils that contain long lived weed seeds.

Keywords: microwave radiation, seed mortality, rubber vine (Cryptostegia grandiflora), parthenium (Parthenium hysterophorous), bellyache bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia), burial depth, soil moisture.


Plant Protection Quarterly (2007) 22 (4) 136-142.