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Crops to be checked for UV damage

OVER the next three years, Britain will sprout lamps shining ultraviolet light on to crops as part of a pounds 1m project studying the consequences of the thinning of the ozone layer, Tom Wilkie writes.

By 2000, the levels of UV radiation reaching the ground could be 33 per cent higher than in 1980. According to Dr Brian Jordan, from Horticulture Research International, Littlehampton, UV light can harm crop yields, particularly pea plants and other legumes. He said to protect themselves peas depress normal photosynthesis and make protective pigments.

There was a possibility that - in the laboratory at least - genetic engineering might make it possible to insert extra copies of protective genes into plants to enhance resistance to UV light.