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India’s Dream of Harnessing Atoms for Farming

India’s dream of harnessing atoms for peace and prosperity has now come true in the form of Asia’s biggest nuclear research laboratory exclusively devoted to the betterment of agriculture and animal husbandry.

The laboratory, scheduled to start functioning from July 1 this year at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (special fund), will use nuclear tools in a big way.

The $3.5-million project will not only provide facilities for application of nuclear energy to bring about qualitative and quantitative improvement in agricultural and animal products, but also organise training programmes in these fields for scientists from agricultural universities and allied institutions of all the developing countries of the world.

It will standardise techniques for increasing crop production in non-irrigated areas as well. The UNDP Governing Council, which approved this project in January last, will contribute about $1.5 million in the next five years.

The counterpart contribution by the Government of India will be in the form of land, building equipment, scientific personnel, transport, installation facilities and other services valued over $two million. An agreement to this effect will be signed soon in Delhi.

The laboratory will promote research on plant nutrition, fertilizer use, soil structure, root growth, water movement and conservation, pest control and development of high-yielding-cum-high-quality varieties through mutation breeding, help agricultural scientists with sophisticated equipment and facilities, and encourage utilisation of nuclear tools to solve problems in animal nutrition and production.

The services of its senior scientists will be at the disposal of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research to serve as coordinators of its all-India research projects on the use of radio isotopes and radiations in agriculture.


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