Nuclear techniques help Pakistan's textile industry

February 1, 2021, 2:59PMNuclear News

IAEA support, including trainings, workshops and fellowships as well as practical lectures such as this one in Pakistan, have contributed to building the national capacity in cotton breeding techniques. (Photo: L. Jankuloski/Joint FAO/IAEA)

In a story published last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency described a partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations working with local experts in Pakistan to develop and introduce new varieties of cotton that are more resilient and better adapted to the increasingly negative effects of climate change. The new varieties are developed through mutation breeding techniques, wherein seeds, cuttings, or tissue-culture material is exposed to radiation or other mutagen sources, like an X-ray or gamma ray source.

The science: According to the IAEA, seeds first are exposed to radiation and then planted in greenhouses. Subsequent generations are then propagated—three or four generations beyond the initially irradiated seeds. Then, the resulting mutated plants are examined for the specific traits desired in the program, and promising candidates are planted in trials to prove the performance. If the mutants display desirable traits, seeds are released to farmers for cultivation.

According to a report from the IAEA, mutant varieties have improved the quality traits of crops. The mutations in the crop varieties have led to “decrease[d] use of pesticides (due to increased disease resistance), a reduction in using fertilizers and consumption of water (due to the highly efficient nutrient intake and better tolerance to drought), superior quality, and higher crop yields,” the report states.

Introduction of new varieties: The new varieties developed now account for 40 percent of all cotton produced in Pakistan, up from just 25 percent two years ago and from nonexistent yield in 2016. Pakistani farmer Muhammad Ikram said, “I was able to harvest my crop this year with a 30 percent higher yield than what I could achieve with traditional varieties.” This is a big success for Pakistan considering the textile industry employs 40 percent of the labor force in the country.


Related Articles

It’s amazing all the things nuclear can do

January 3, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear NewsSteven Arndt

It has always amazed me how broad and diverse the nuclear science and technology field is. It is one of the things that drew me to the nuclear business in the first place. The American Nuclear...

The male business of nuclear diplomacy

November 30, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear CafeMaria Rentetzi

An unusual event during the recent General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency distracted the delegations of member states and the press from the Russian war in Ukraine and...

Nuclear: Building enthusiasm at COP27

November 22, 2022, 12:05PMNuclear News

Nuclear energy is no longer on the fringes of the international climate conversation. At COP27, the United Nations climate change conference held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6 to...

Impressions from the IAEA General Conference

November 16, 2022, 9:30AMANS NewsCraig Piercy

There are worse places to be than Vienna, Austria, in the early fall. The place has an old-world vibe for sure. The U-Bahn doesn’t have turnstiles; it runs on the honor system. People take...

Exporting American nuclear excellence

November 15, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear NewsSteven Arndt

As I write, I am reflecting on my time at the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference, held in Vienna during the last week of September. At the GC, I was able to meet with a...