BARC programme develops 40 crop varieties

Breakthrough

To boost food production and ensure its safety, India's premier atomic energy research institution Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has developed more than 40 new crop varieties including 15 varieties of groundnuts using the latest radiation technology under its nuclear agriculture programme.

"Using radiation induced mutations, we have developed a total of 41 crop varieties encompassing 10 different crops. These varieties are capable of higher yields along with resistance to various diseases", said Dr S G Bhagawat, Former Head, Nuclear Agriculture and Biotechnology Division, BARC. 

He told Deccan Herald that BARC has specifically gathered expertise in developing new varieties of pulses and oilseeds including 15 varieties of groundnuts, eight of mungbean (greengram), five of udad (blackgram), four of tur (pigeonpea), three of mustard, two of soyabean and one each of sunflower, chavali (cowpea), rice and jute.

According to him, enhancing genetic variability is a major benefit of radiation effect on plants, which can be used to develop newer crop varieties with desirable characteristics such as increased yield, solidity or water stress tolerance and disease resistance. 

Bhagawat said up till now, the 40 crop varieties development at BARC in collaboration with some agriculture universities have been approved by the central government for commercial cultivation.

He said groundnuts of different varieties are cultivated in Trombay and Karnataka. “Black gram varieties are being cultivated in Tamil Nadu”, he added.

Explaining the process, he said that once seeds are irradiated, they are absolutely safe for the consumers including children. "We just pass gamma rays through the seeds like what x-rays does to human", he pointed out.

Bhagawat said treatment with gamma radiation or electron beam enables dis-infestation of insect pests in stored products, delay in ripening of fresh fruit, inhibition of sprouting in tubers and bulbs like potatoes and onions, destruction of food spoilage bacteria and elimination of parasites and pathogens in food.

The institution has also developed several protocols for micro propagation - a technique for large-scale rapid plant multiplication- of elite varieties of banana. “This will soon be introduced commercially”, he said.

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