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Irradiation for Increase Agricultural-Crop Capacity


Application of Ionizing-Radiation Sources to Increase Agricultural-Crop Capacity and Adaptivity

Tech Area / Field

  • BIO-RAD/Radiobiology/Biotechnology
  • AGR-OTH/Other/Agriculture

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Ural State Agricultural Academy, Russia, Sverdlovsk reg., Ekaterinburg

Supporting institutes

  • VNIITF, Russia, Chelyabinsk reg., Snezhinsk


  • Universität Tübingen / Botanisches Institut / Fakultat fuer Biologie, Germany, Tübingen\nUniversität für Bodenkultur / Institute of Forest Entomology, Forest Pathology & Forest Protection, Austria, Vienna

Project summary

Goal of the work: Collection of data and generalization of world expertise on radiation genetics and selection of crops. Analysis of the database for 4 cultures, i.e. barley, wheat, pea, soybeans, will serve the basis for comprehensive work on radiation selection of these cultures including mutants growing with the purpose to have the second-generation hybrids (М2). Determining economical efficiency of the work aimed at increasing crop capacity of four cultures using the radiation genetics method.


Overflow of population on the Earth is an important problem of XXI century. Continuous growth of population requires gradual raising in the rate of foodstuffs production, housing construction, and infrastructure development. Resolution of these problems encounters some environmental limitations and limitations with resources (forest destruction, deficiency of drinkable water, natural-resources depletion, etc.). This is especially critical for foodstuffs production, since available arable lands are already in use and extensive development of agricultural production is hardly possible. Potentiality of arable lands, i.e. their crop capacity, needs to be intensified.

World experience shows energy of elementary particles used for these purposes to be a promising direction of this problem approaching. At present, identification of applied topics is a first-priority task for physicists, since plenty of effort was made to study practical application of atomic energy, and they developed different sources of ionizing radiation and now these knowledge and developments are to find wide practical application. Collaboration of RFNC-VNIITF with the Ural State Agricultural Academy is to facilitate successful solution of the task forwarded by the Project – i.e. application of ionizing irradiation to increase crop capacity. This assurance rests on the fact that these Institutions have both good equipment, and, the main thing, high-quality experts whose expertise allows this work accomplishment.

Moreover, RFNC-VNIITF experts have an additional reason to address to this topic. Historically it happened so that RFNC-VNIITF is located on the territory where earlier, in the 50s, the joint Russian German group of Laboratory “B” carried out its investigations [1]. The Laboratory studied a wide range of problems interesting both for practical application in the atomic industry, and for scientific purposes. Studies of radiobiological and radioecological aspects of nuclear problematics were headed by a well know Russian scientist-geneticist N.V. Timofeev-Resovsky. Presentation and analysis of unpublished results of this team is a task of this Project.


Impact of ionizing radiation on the wildlife was discovered in 1925-1927. Intensive study of this phenomenon began after World War II in connection with the atomic industry development.

Main objective of this work – is environmental safety: determining safe levels of internal and external irradiation, developing standards for radioactive contamination, comprehension how production radioactive wastes migrate in nature, especially in the biosphere.

Positive effect of plants irradiation.

Studies of radiation effect on biological objects showed that ionizing radiation has not only negative, i.e. destructive, effect on the wildlife, but also positive. If in small doses, it can improve certain properties and quality. For example, irradiation of some crops at different stages of farming industry increases crop capacity and (or) increases immunity to diseases during ripening and storage.

Up-to-date science and practice of radioactive irradiation application in agricultural production.

The mutagene effect, i.e. increased mutagene activity after irradiation, serves the basis for the reaction of biological medium to ionizing radiation. Genetic action of radiation allows different mutagenic forms of plants, which can be used to develop new cultivars (radiation genetics and selection). Just now in the world there are many new crops having improved economical qualities. Ionizing radiation stimulates growing processes in plants and increases crop capacity from 6 to 30% [2,3,4,5].

Papers published numerous data on mutagene activity of different radiations for different cultures. Experiments determined the dose rate, which doubles frequency of natural mutations with different species of plants, i.e. 28-60Р. Genetic activity of neutrons is 10 times higher, if compared with gamma-, and X-rays. Biological activity of isotope С14, included in a chromosome, turned out to be 9 times higher, if compared with external irradiation having the same dose rate. Investigations often use the following dose rates: X-rays (10-100Gray), gamma-rays (10-200Gray), thermal neutron (109-1012n/cm2), prompt neutrons (1012-1013 n/cm2), radioactive isotopes.

Up to now, radioactive effect on alive systems has no common theory. Unclear is the basic issue: in what way energy of an ionizing particle, which causes mutation, is transferred to cell macromolecula:

• Directly to the macromolecule structure (direct effect);

• Mutation effect is induced by free radicals arising as a result of radiolysis of water surrounding cell structures (indirect effect).

A priory prediction of a certain type of mutation to take place is impossible. It is only possible to predict increase in the frequency of visible mutations. No common opinion exists about relative genetic activity of mutagenic factors. Vegetation has different reaction to ionizing radiation, and this depends both on the dose rate, and a complex combination of factors accompanying radiation: grade of seeds, their physiological condition, humidity, temperature, growing period and conditions. For example, different grades of the common wheat, being highly mutable culture, can have great differences in frequency and range of mutations induced by the same mutagene.

Basic scientific and technical essence of the proposed Project.

The radiation genetics experiment will be conducted for four agricultural crops, i.e. wheat, barley, pees, and soybeans. Numerous factors influencing radiation treatment of plants and, at the same time, limited experimental material available in the world do not allow, as a rule, a priori choice of the technology for radiation treatment of any crop identified for selection, but require optimization of this process. So, comprehension of the world experience in radiation genetics is to be the commencement of work under the Project. In order to do this, the creation of the database, which will include all works done in this direction, is currently underway. RFNC-VNIITF together with experts from Ural State Agricultural Academy are involved in systematization and processing of experimental results by the method of multi-factor experiment planning with the purpose to clarify functional dependence of biological parameters on the extent of radioactive irradiation, as well as on significance of other factors.

These results will serve the basis for identifying the type of irradiation, its spectrum, dose rates, as well as for selection and adaptation (radiation filtering, power and dose rate variation, etc.) of appropriate radiation sources

In the selection practice, artificial mutagenesis allows new grades of plants in short periods due to changes in the initial genotypes induced by different mutagenes (including radiation), i.e. forms are selected within the genotypic variability of a grade. The proposed project plans no usage of modern selection methods, transgenesis in particular, which gives transgenoted plants.

Expected Results and Their Application:

• Creation of the database and its use for analyzing the functional dependence of biological parameters on the radioactive irradiation extent and values of other factors.

• Experiments with four cultures are expected to give new grades of these cultures with increased crop capacity.

• Estimating the economic efficiency of crop capacity improved due to radiation selection method will allow agricultural manufacturers to have economic justification for this work funding and will facilitate market relations between agricultural production and science.


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