The Benefits Of Radiation To Agriculture
Researchers from the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) have been developing improved crop varieties through mutation a non conventional method of plant breeding which uses mutational agents (mutagen) such as radiation or chemicals (i.e. ethyl methyl sulfonite (EMS).
Radiation can induced hereditary changes or mutations in treated/irradiated planting materials that will result in mutants with desirable attributes.
Using mutation breeding, PNRI was able to produce mutant selections of rice, mungbean and foliage ornamentals that are now planted by farmers in the Philippines.
Among the rice varieties developed are Milagrosa mutant, Azmil mutant, Bengawan mutant, Sigadis Milagrosa mutant, Denorado, Perunong NBB, Malagkit Sungsong and PARC-2.
PNRI has also developed some mungbean and ornamental plant varieties. In addition to these developed mutant varieties, PNRI has continued to produce mutant rice, legumes, high value fruit crops and ornamentals that are now being evaluated before they are released for commercialization.
Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), is also introduced to contain the fruitfly population by exposing male fruitfly pupae to radiation to make them sterile thereby when they become adult fruitfly they will not be able to produce offspring.
Nuclear technology is also applied in the nutritional management aspect where isotopes are being used to determine the need to apply fertilizer in a certain field. This way, fertilizer is applied in the right amount and at the right time.
Apart from what has been mentioned, radiation is also used as phytosanitary treatment for fruits and vegetables , spices and other food by products. The method, which is called irradiation also inhibits sprouting, delays ripening, disinfects and decontaminates fresh and frozen seafood, meat and poultry, spices, enzymes and dehydrated vegetables of harmful microorganisms.
In a recent briefing on nuclear energy application, Estelita Cabalfin, consultant of PNRI, stressed that “All these processes do not make the product radioactive. We do not disproved that radiation is harmful. We agree that it can be harmful under some circumstances. But, it also has a number of beneficial effects. It depends on how we are going to use it.”