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Focus on . . . Nuclear Agriculture

Tracing the flow of water in soil strata, tracking molecules of nutrients in animal digestive systems or of pollutants in the environment, measuring minute levels of hormonal variation in livestock, providing a ready method of assaying presence of animal disease in the field - all are difficult tasks requiring precise measurements. And all have been made possible through the use of nuclear technology, with very significant direct benefits to agriculture. In addition, nuclear techniques have been used with dramatic effect to greatly reduce, and sometimes eradicate, several insect pests: tsetse fly in Zanzibar, Mediterranean fruit fly in major fruit production areas in Chile, and Screw worm in the US, Mexico and parts of Central America. And low level irradiation is regularly used to kill insect pests and certain pathogens in foodstuffs.

Lack of understanding, and sometimes misunderstanding, can slow and even inhibit the application of these technologies. A more complete knowledge of them could optimise their potential in a number of agricultural and agro-processing activities.


Insect pests - a SITting target?

A cheaper and safer alternative to chemical control has proved highly effective against several key insect pests. The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), pioneered in the . . .

A safe technology for safe food

Irradiation is one of the most promising and effective treatments for many types of food preservation. It can reduce food losses (due to insect damage, disease and . . .

Water: tapping into the old and the new

Naturally-occurring isotopes are being used to determine the extent of African aquifers so that water resources can be managed more efficiently. Calculating the ratio of . . .

Food for humans, feed for animals

A combination of nuclear techniques and agronomy skills has led to the development of feed supplements which can significantly increase milk production in dairy cows and buffaloes. Initially developed . . .

Renewed hope for saline soils

By suiting the plant to the soil, salt-affected land can become sustainable by making use of salt-tolerant plants and saline groundwater for irrigation. Over one hundred species of salt-tolerant plant, including . . .

Biofertilizers - a cheap and accessible alternative

Selected and cultured rhizobia bacteria have been demonstrated to significantly increase legume production and improve soil nitrogen levels for subsequent cereal crops. The IAEA . . .

Improving reproductive performance

A technique to measure the level of progesterone in blood or milk can be used to improve reproductive performance in livestock. Radioimmunoassay (RIA) uses the measurement of . . .

ELISA for diagnosing disease

ELISA (Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay) is a specific kit which can be used to diagnose low levels of disease at laboratory level. This technology is the most widely used diagnostic system . . .

Mutation techniques for plant breeding

Nuclear technology is used in plant breeding to develop new varieties by means of induced mutations and related biotechnologies. With the aid of IAEA and UNDP, China has been able to develop new, higher-yielding rice cultivars and extend them to . . .

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