Nuclear energy has multiple uses besides electricity. One example of such is the agricultural uses that have been developed over the last few decades.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), stated that the creation of isotopes to improve the fertility of soil, the use of X-Rays for genetically modified crops and molecular markers are a few of the nuclear techniques that are increasingly being applied to improve agriculture in developing countries.
Specific nuclear isotope research is key to these applications. For example, Nitrogen-15 is commonly used to determine the abstraction efficiency of fertilizer by plants, Carbon-13 can be used to examine compost and plants’ resistance to drought and salinity and Oxygen-18 enables crop evaporation and transpiration to be separated in order to provide information on water-loss.
On the other hand, it must be noted that the controlled use of its diffusion has resulted in various crop modifications, making them more resistant to adverse environmental elements. Years of ongoing work has been happening in developing countries to change protocols so that these techniques can be validated and implemented. This enables these countries to have wheat, coffee, plantain, rice and sorghum crops that are more resistant to plagues and diseases.
Countries where nuclear energy is applied to agriculture
These FAO instructed techniques are being implemented in Myanmar, where a certain amount of water from Lake Inle has been exposed to a pesticide and industrial toxic waste spillage. While in Morocco, research has been carried out to measure earth sediment erosion.
Another country benefitting from this project is Vietnam, which since 2012 has developed seven different types of rice fully adapted to their unique climate, obtained through genetic modification techniques, which are now used by 100,000 farmers.
Likewise, in Pakistan, new types of cotton have been developed over the last few years which are resistant to water shortage, and now make up 25% of the 3 million hectares used to harvest the crop.