You probably know humans need iodine for several reasons, but did you know that iodine derivatives are readily used in agriculture? Iodine derivatives, like methyl iodide and potassium iodate, play an important role in maintaining a safe and sustainable food supply.
5 Ways Iodine Derivatives Keep Your Crops Healthy
Plant Pathogen Control with Iodophors
Spray-on formulations of iodophors control bacterial diseases while treatment with hypoiodide controls fungal diseases. Hypoiodide works by disrupting fungal proteins while iodophors penetrate the cell wall of microorganisms present during post-harvest rinses. This type of treatment prevents fungal diseases such as Colletotrichum tabificum on tomatoes and Phytophthora infestans (late blight) on potatoes.
Soil Fumigation with Methyl Iodide
Soil fumigation with methyl iodide is another form of pathogen control that utilizes an iodine derivative. Soil fumigants are gas pesticides applied to the soil that effectively suffocate pests, like damaging nematodes, fungi and insects. The use of methyl iodide as a soil fumigant for strawberry, tomato and grape crops was approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 2007. It is a good alternative to the previously used fumigant, methyl bromide.
Herbicidal Treatment with Loxynil
Loxynil, or 3,5-diiodo-4-hydroxybenzonitrile, is an organoiodine herbicide that has been used to eradicate weeds in European cereal crops. Loxynil actively inhibits photosynthesis of pesky weeds at photosystem II.
Fertilization with Soluble Iodide or Iodate Salts
The natural iodine content in soil is low. While iodine is not an essential nutrient for plant growth, fertilizing with iodine derivatives has been shown to aid in biomass production and increase the antioxidant levels in plants which provide drought and stress resistance. It is hypothesized that when small doses of iodine are included in nitrogen-rich fertilizers, it enables plants to more rapidly assimilate nitrogen, which is necessary for growth. Treatment with iodine-containing fertilizers can increase the concentrations of iodine in vegetables, providing a way to biofortify crops.
Irrigation with Potassium Iodate
Irrigating with iodine derivatives, specifically potassium iodate, can provide similar benefits to fertilization with iodate salts. Biofortification through irrigation with iodine derivatives is of particular interest to the World Health Organization because this type of crop treatment increases the amount of iodine in animal and human diets, ultimately combating iodine deficiency disorder. Crop enrichment with iodine has already proven successful in northwestern China. A supply of iodine biofortified foods is essential to a healthy human population.