As the impact of climate change and global warming becomes more evident, many regions are burdened by droughts, floods, soil erosion, salinity, and extreme weather events. All of these factors limit food production and hamper sustainable development.
In order to mitigate the impact of changing climate and accelerate crop productivity, experts suggest to leverage nuclear technology to boost crop production, efficiently manage water resources, improve livestock health and lower the use of fertilizers.
Every day, thousands of people worldwide benefit from the use of nuclear technology, and agriculture is not an exception.
Applications of Nuclear Technology in Agriculture
• With the help of nuclear technology in the form of ionizing radiations, plant scientists can induce subtle changes or mutations in the DNA in plant seeds, buds or tissue. As a result, this natural diversity can be increased.
• In view of climate change, it is more than ever necessary to rationalise resources for agriculture, such as soils, water and fertilizers. Techniques using radiotracers can be used to control soil water content and nutrients. Nearly 5,000 farmers in Benin are in the process of using nuclear technology to improve soil and water balance.
• To safeguard crops against pests, nuclear science has formulated The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) where males are sterilized by gamma radiation and released massively into the wild, where they can no longer reproduce.
• Using nuclear technology, new varieties of spices could be developed tolerant to prevailing diseases. For example, IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization, is supporting Jamaica by developing new and high-quality ginger varieties using nuclear techniques.
• Food irradiation – a process in which food is exposed to a precisely-monitored amount of energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation or high-speed particles – is also gaining consumer acceptance worldwide. One of the primary benefits of irradiation is that it reduces bacterial contamination, slow spoilage and maintain food quality.
In short, whether it relates to the food irradiation or pest control, nuclear technology is paving the way to revolutionize agriculture around the world.