A research group headed by the Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) has developed a natural eco-friendly product (fungicide and plant growth promoter- a chitosan derivative), from shrimp waste which could be used for agricultural applications. Among other applications this newly developed fungicide can also be used to control diseases in Dragon Fruit.
Dragon fruit is commercially cultivated in Sri Lanka and is popular now. A Dragon fruit Association has also been established and there are more than 100 farmers in this Association. The Dragon fruit cultivators are contributing to GDP and earn foreign remittance to Sri Lanka through selling Dragon fruits to Maldives, countries in the Middle East Germany etc. The above Association has reported to the AEA that they have found several Dragon Fruit diseases created by some fungi and bacteria and they are rapidly spreading in the Dragon Fruit cultivation and these fungi and bacteria are unable to be controlled by using any licensed fungicide in the world.
They have requested the Radiation Processing Section of the AEA, to assist them in controlling this disease using the natural, eco-friendly Chitosan thus produced (with the skeleton of shrimp shells), by the above research group which consisted of members of the AEA (under the Ministry of Power and Energy) in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture ( Horticultural Research and Development Institute -HORDI, Gannoruwa, Rice Research and Development Institute-RRDI, Bathalagoda and Regional Rice Research and Development Centre-RRRDC, Bombuwala of the Agriculture Department) with the technical assistance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The AEA has developed the chitosan derivative using gamma radiation and apart from using it for Dragon Fruit its efficacy was also tested for rice, rambutan, okra, capsicum and tomato through field and laboratory trials.
While achieving the successful results from above studies, the AEA signed a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Dragon Fruit Wagakaruwange Sangamaya last week to carry out pilot scale studies to evaluate the efficacy of the chitosan derivative in controlling the fungal diseases that affect many dragon fruit farms/ cultivations now.
According to the members of this Sangamaya these diseases are very common to many dragon fruit cultivations and many fungicides which have been tested were not successful in controlling this disease. As such it is expected that the chitosan derivative which has been developed by the AEA, would protect this valuable plant in Sri Lanka and establish sustainability in growing it for future needs, at domestic and international levels while minimizing the use of chemicals in agriculture.
The scientists involved in this research project are Samantha Kulatunge, K.R.C.de Silva, Champa K. Dissanayake (AEA), Dr. R.G.A.S. Rajapakse, Priyanka Premaratne (HORDI), Dr. W.M.W.Weerakoon, Mr. S.W. Abeysekera, L.C.Silva, A.H.L.K. Liyanage (RRDI), Jothimala Mithrasena, A. Shyama Pushpakumari, J. Nilanthi Silva (RRRDC).
By Samantha Kulatunge and Chulika Nanayakkara
Atomic Energy Authority