Over the years, agricultural researchers have developed a number of applications for irradiation. Specifically, crop irradiation has been used to:
- develop hundreds of varieties of hardier, more disease-resistant crops, including peanuts, tomatoes, onions, rice, soybeans and barley;
- improve the nutritional value of some crops, as well as their baking or melting qualities, or reduce their cooking time;
- show how plants absorb nutrients, helping researchers to learn when to apply fertilizer, and how much to use – helping to prevent overuse of fertilizer, thus reducing a major source of soil and water pollution; and
- sterilize the males of species of harmful insects so that no offspring are produced, effectively controlling the population.
Crop irradiation has proven to be effective, safe and environmentally friendly: it releases no chemical, biological or nuclear agents into the environment. It has enabled farmers to limit the use of fertilizers, which helps preserve water supplies, saves energy costs from pumping and prevents runoff of potential contaminants into streams and rivers.
Canadian Nuclear Association, https://cna.ca/technology/food-agriculture/crop-improvements/.