On the frontier of science for food and agriculture

Nuclear weapon tests offer valuable insight into how to measure soil erosion and enable the restoration of healthy soils we need to grow our food.

The caesium-137 (Cs-137) radionuclides released into the atmosphere and spread around the world from nuclear tests conducted more than half a century ago are deposited on the earth’s surface through rain, offering the opportunity to precisely assess the rate of soil erosion, even in remote areas where no past data is available.

Such isotopic knowledge, produced by the Joint FAO / IAEA Center of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture , operated in partnership by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is enabling improved farming practices in countries such as Benin , where smallholder farmers have tripled their yields ; and Egypt , where topsoil losses have damaged almost half the arable land. Algeria, Madagascar, Morocco, Tunisia and Zimbabwe are some other countries that have benefited.

Such cutting-edge technologies enable FAO / IAEA joint “atoms for peace” work to add value to global agricultural research that contributes to food security, food safety and rural development worth billions of dollars annually.

“Our nuclear science has a lot to contribute to the Four Betters that guide FAO’s strategy to eradicating hunger and boosting rural development,” says LIANG Qu, Director of the Joint Center.

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu’s Four Betters – Better Production, Better Nutrition, Better Environment and a Better Life – signal cross-cutting approaches to making the world’s agri-food systems fit for purpose in delivering health, food safety and livelihood benefits for all.

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Read more: FAO

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