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Isotopes used in agriculture

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Abigail Maravilla

on 29 October 2013

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Transcript of Isotopes used in agriculture

What is an isotope?
Isotopes are two or more forms of the same elements that contain the same number of protons but different number of neutrons. This causes them to differ in relative atomic mass but not chemical properties.
In agriculture, the elements that plants require can be substituted with radioisotopes of the same element. This allows the usage of the fertilizer to be tracked through the plant's structure, giving farmers the ability to understand how much fertilizer a plant requires and how much fertilizer is lost to the environment.
Increases Production and Quality of Food
Scientists use very low radiation exposure on seed buds, and tissue to improve the genetic makeup of plants.
Since the use of isotopes gives the ability to track the amount of fertilizers plants use, this also allows farmers to provide the plants with the right amount of nutrients, promoting maximal crop production.
The process of crop irradiation destroys fungi, bacteria, or insects that are capable of spreading diseases in humans.
With irradiation, crops do not become radioactive or retain toxins unlike chemical disinfecting processes.
What is the difference between a stable and unstable isotope?
Stable Isotope
Unstable Isotope
Unstable (radioactive) isotopes can easily undergo changes, transforming them into other isotopes of the same or of different elements.
Unstable isotopes undergo radioactive decay.
Stability depends on composition of nucleus.
Stable isotopes
undergo radioactive decay.
Natural abundance of isotopes
Natural abundance is the measure of the average amount of a given isotope naturally occurring on Earth.
Calculating average atomic mass
[(u)(% abundance)]+[(u)(% abundance)]
u = Atomic mass of element
Phosphorus-32 is used in plant sciences to track the intake of fertilizer from the roots to the leaves. When Phosphorus-32 labeled fertilizer is given to plants through water in the soil, the usage of the phosphorus can be mapped through the emitted beta radiation. With the help of the information gathered from mapping the fertilizer intake, it is easier to understand how a plant takes up and uses the phosphorus from the fertilizer.
However, Phosphorus-32 is quite harmful so many precautions must be taken with its use.
Nitrogen-15 is a rare stable isotope of nitrogen. In agriculture, botanists use N-15 to track the movement and absorption of fertilizer by plants . When the isotope is mixed into the fertilizer and monitored, botanists are able to understand how effective the fertilizer is with the growth of the plant.
With the ability to track the usage of nitrogen in plants in order to be given the proper levels of fertilizer, the risk of pollution being added to ground water from excess nitrogen is decreased.
-> Reduces amount of nitrous oxide and methane emissions.
Increases Genetic Diversity of Plants
Using radiation create mutations in plant breeding produces new genetic lines of different crops.
When new kinds of crops such as garlic and bananas are created, they become more resistant to pests and more adaptable to harsh climatic conditions.

With that being said, the use of isotopes assists with the...
Genetic makeup
and sterilization of crops
What is agriculture?
Agriculture is the science or practice of farming, including improving the soil for the growing of crops and the breeding or raising of animals to provide things such as food or wool.
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