Nuclear Energy Agricultural Uses

Nuclear energy can help identify more robust and fertile grains.
Nuclear energy can help identify more robust and fertile grains. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Nuclear energy as a power source is well known and used in a number of countries including Britain, America and France. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have implemented a number of joint studies into the uses of nuclear energy in food production. It has concentrated its studies in places where farmable land is scarce, but the technology has wide implications and can be used to produce quality and quantity across the globe.


Radiation from nuclear energy is being used to increase rice production in Asia. Scientists have been able to do this by using radiation to breed new varieties of rice seeds. These new seeds have higher yields than traditional and natural varieties. The technique is being applied to many other seeds as well including barley, onions, peanuts, rice and tomatoes. Isotopes have also been used to identify the best seed genotypes in various cereal crops when compared to the natural environment.


Food irradiation has been used to kill bacteria, insects and other parasites to protect crops from blight. This process is achieved by exposing the food to gamma rays from a radioisotope of cobalt called cobalt-60. The process does not make the food radioactive. The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) has also been used to expose insects to radiation to reduce their numbers through infertility. Radiation has also been used to increase the quality of food produced. Changes made to the crops include increasing a crop’s nutritional value and making them quicker and easier to boil or cook.

Soil Fertility Studies

Soil fertility is as important to yield and quality as the genetic makeup of the seed itself. Analysis using nuclear energy has been used to examine how plants absorb fertilizer. Results from this research has helped farmers learn when to use fertilizer and how much to use. This has also helped stop the pollution of local water resources. Neutron probes can be used to measure the amount of water in the soil in any one field. Using data from the neutron probe, scientists can measure the exact amount of water a plant needs, when and where exactly to place the water using drip irrigation.


Researchers have used nuclear radiation to examine livestock such as cows, pigs and sheep to look at how illnesses affect the animals. Techniques include using isotopes to detect pathogens by tracking proteins and nucleic acid molecules. Using the data from radiation they have been able to determine which livestock should be bred together to produce a more disease-resistant variety.

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