Nuclear technology yields cotton ready to withstand withering heat waves brought on by global warming

Credit: Thomson/Reuters
Credit: Thomson/Reuters

[C]limate extremes such as heat waves and increasing temperatures have been impacting the cotton industry, which has seen an unprecedented fall in yields.

The IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is working with local experts to develop and introduce new varieties of cotton that are more resilient and better adapted to the new climate reality in [Pakistan.]

Using nuclear techniques, the first cotton variety was released in Pakistan in 1983; since then, a total of 16 cotton varieties have been developed. The four latest varieties to be released are expected to make up 56 per cent of seeds planted throughout the country in the coming months.

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Seeds are first exposed to irradiation with gamma rays and then planted in growth chambers or greenhouses. Plants arising from the irradiated seeds are planted and advanced over three to four generations during which they are examined and selected for the traits targeted for improvement in the programme.

Once suitable plant lines have been identified, they are planted in different locations (agroecological zones) of the country – representing various climatic and soil conditions.

Once an advanced line/s has proven its performance in such multi-locational trials, it is released as a variety for cultivation by farmers. The seed of the variety is then multiplied so that farmers have access to sufficient amounts to plant.

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