At one time or another, we all studied plasma in science class. It’s the fourth state of matter along with solid, liquid, and gas. But in the past decade, it has become a lot just than being a state of matter.
Scientists and researchers have noticed some incredible uses of plasma for agriculture. And, these uses have a wide range. For example, improved yield, pollution-free fertilizers, and almost elimination of bacteria such as Salmonella and Listeria.
Basics of Plasma
Plasma occurs naturally or can be human-made. Plasma consists of negatively charged electrons, positive ions, and neutrons. Therefore, it produces electromagnetic fields, ultraviolet, and infrared radiations. Plasma is remarkably common. As 99.9% universe exists in the plasma state. Sun and stars are mostly plasma. Lightning also produces plasma.
What is Cold Plasma
It is a novel nonthermal food processing technology. As it uses cold gases to disinfect meat, poultry, fruits, and vegetables. In other words, the technique inactivates the microorganisms on the surface of food and packaging materials.
Cold plasma is created at atmospheric pressure and at temperatures below 40 degrees Celcius in a plasma ball. The plasma ball is filled with a gaseous mixture of noble gases like argon, xenon, neon, or krypton. Then an electric current is sent through the gas. The process creates a mix of charged and neutral particles that can produce reactive species of nitrogen and oxygen. Above all many agricultural experiments used a mix of noble gases and air to yield ions of nitrogen and oxygen.
Application of Cold Plasma Technology in Food
Cold plasma is attracting a lot of attention from the food industry. For decades, scientists have known that exposure to plasma can safely kill pathogenic bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Recent experiments have tested a mix of ways to apply plasma to seed, seedlings, crops, and fields. Studies suggest plasma boosts plant growth and yield. Similarly, it might also preserve food by eliminating pathogenic microorganisms. It can help in agriculture during preharvest and post-harvest periods. During the preharvest period, it can help in growth enhancement, seed sterilization, and soil remediation. During the post-harvest period, it can help in food preserving and food processing and one of the most appealing uses of plasma is as a fertilizer alternative to ammonia.
Another approach uses plasma-treated water that can help in both irrigation and fertilization. When we mix plasma to water it biologically makes nitrogen available. Which will then irrigate the plants. Cold plasma can serve a wide range of applications in the agriculture sector. The only challenge is to figure out whether plasma can deliver at the level of hectares of crops.