Friday, October 11, 2013

Tamil Nadu agricultural project uses radiation to increase yield

To ensure higher yield in crops, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in collaboration with Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, is working on eight agricultural projects.
Plants and crops like rice, soyabeans, black grams and green grams are exposed to radiation treatment and a variety of mutations are in the testing and trial processes. The ongoing projects are funded by the Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences, K B Sainis, Director, Bio-Medical Group, BARC, said on Wednesday at a scientists-media interaction organised by the Press Information Bureau ( PIB) on "Radiation and Quality of Human Life".
Experts from BARC made presentations on nuclear agriculture, radiation processing of food and agricultural commodities, and the medical application of radiation and its health effects. Radiation and radioisotope technologies playing a major role in maintenance of health and quality of human life was also in focus.
The TNAU-BARC project is about subjecting plants and crops to radiation via gamma rays to give it a genetic variability that can target specific requirements such as increased yield and disease resistance.
For instance white ponni rice that is widely consumed has short comings that it is a tall plant variety. The project requirement is to make it a shorter variety, to prevent it from falling and the variety will also be made to mature early. "Basmati rice and red rice, which are tall, low yielding and old varieties can be mutated to short varieties", explained Suresh Bhagwat, scientist and former head, Nuclear Agriculture and Biotechnology Division, BARC.
The soybeans project's aim is to reduce an anti- nutritional factor that is found in high levels in the form of phytic acid. Green gram is being treated by radiation to improve its disease resistance. Black gram is under treatment to see if it is suitable for situations like rice fallows and modification of starch properties is being done in tapioca.
Using radiation induced mutations in crops will have three over- arching traits in its variety crops. One is the "lodging resistance" through which crops will be dwarfed to become sturdy and prevent it from falling and they will be made to mature early. They will also be thermo-tolerant plants. "We are using mutational breeding to enhance crop productivity through these projects", according to K Ramasamy, vice chancellor, TNAU.
Nuclear agriculture will also help delay fruit ripening and prevent pre-harvest crop loss.

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