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Aiea and Malaysia working towards sustainable agriculture

The Asian country is at the forefront of studying nuclear techniques to accelerate the process of natural selection

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has extended the designation of the Malaysian Nuclear Agency (MNA) as an IAEA collaborating center in three research areas: plant breeding, non-destructive testing and radiation treatment of polymers. Plant breeding using nuclear techniques to accelerate the process of natural selection is a significant element in Malaysia's efforts to improve the sustainability of its food and agriculture sector.

"This process, known as mutation breeding, produces stronger, more nutritious and higher yielding crops - reads a note from the IAEA -. An example of success is the development of a new variety of rice with better to withstand both drought and floods. MNA's gamma greenhouse, a large-scale irradiation facility, allows researchers to expose plants to low-dose radiation for longer periods of time, offering greater potential for improving crop yields through natural selection. The Collaborating Center will make extensive use of the gamma greenhouse facility, including providing services to plant breeders across Southeast Asia."

Non-destructive testing (NDT), used to evaluate the properties of a material, component, structure or system for characteristic differences or welding defects and discontinuities without causing damage to the original part, has contributed to the competitiveness of Malaysia's manufacturing sector. For example, radiography is used to locate cracks in welded joints in industrial piping. Malaysia has created a niche in Southeast Asia by offering non-destructive testing services to manufacturers in neighboring countries. Several decades ago, the IAEA played an important role in establishing an accredited NDT training and certification scheme within the MNA. Today, the IAEA and the MNA jointly pursue research and training in advanced and innovative non-destructive testing, making use of artificial intelligence and developing prototype instruments and software. They are also working together to expand capacity building and training in the region.

Radiation treatment of polymers has produced numerous new materials with desirable characteristics for the production of medical devices, cables, and other products, as well as biodegradable plastics. The IAEA's collaboration with the MNA focuses on strengthening the development of environmentally friendly polymers, including various forms of plastic and rubber in many common consumer products. Particular attention will be given to the recycling of polymers and the production of biocomposites, a mixture of natural and synthetic materials. The MNA has played an important role in spreading this know-how across the region, increasing the availability and use of these products and helping to reduce plastic waste. MNA's expertise in radiation-based plastic recycling will also be put to use in the IAEA's Nutec Plastics initiative, which aims to help reduce global plastic pollution by improving plastic recycling processes using nuclear techniques. Malaysia was recently designated as a pilot country for this IAEA flagship initiative.

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EFA News - European Food Agency