The 1953 atomic farm at Brookhaven, Long Island


Though farmers have plowed their fields in many peculiar patterns, few designs have been as strange as that cut on Long Island in the spring of 1953 for the scientists of Brookhaven Laboratories. Consisting of a series of perfect circles, the pattern was designed to discover how atomic radiation affects the growth of plants. At the center of the field is a pipe containing a piece of highly radiaoctive cobalt, and the Brookhaven scientists planted flowers, trees and crops in wedges around it. Bombarded all summer by the implacable radiation, the plants are now being harvest to see what effects it has had on them.

Plants nearest the cobalt source were almost invariaby destroyed. Those in the outer circles recieved little radiation and grew normally. Those between reacted in different ways. A moderate amount of radiation actually improved the growth of some. Heavier doses caused others to grow eccentrically. But the most improtant result of all was the production of many new variations in plants, which are normally procudec only by years of breeding. Since radiation accelerates variation, the Brookhaven scientists feel they may soon add a variety of desirable qualities to plants.



images and info provided by the LIFE Magazine / LIFE Magazine International / LIFE Magazine Atlantic ARCHIVE from the Zetu Harrys Collection

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