Atomic Gardening: Breeding Plants With Gamma Radiation

Atomic Gardening: Breeding Plants With Gamma Radiation


Did you know that the peppermint flavor in your chewing gum and toothpaste, and the red-ruby grapefruit on your plate, is the result of mutation caused by deliberate irradiation? Apparently, after World War II, there was a concerted effort to find peaceful uses for atomic energy. One of the ideas was to bombard plants with radiation and produce lots of mutations, some of which, it was hoped, would lead to plants that were disease or cold-resistant or just had unusual colors. The experiments were mostly conducted in giant gamma gardens on the grounds of national laboratories in the US, Europe and countries of the former USSR, leading to untold numbers of new plant varieties. The disease resistant peppermint plant and the 'Rio Star' grapefruit, which accounts for 75% of the grapefruit production in Texas, were created in these atomic gardens.

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