While most stories of splitting the atom—from Chernobyl to Fukushima and Hiroshima to the Marshall Islands—revolve around images of pure destruction and human misery, the truth is that a much more complicated relationship has existed between nuclear technologies and human existence. This article focuses on agriculture to explore how executive branch policymakers in the United States implemented nuclear technologies in the budding nuclear age. Part of that tale involves how nuclear technologies, especially radioactive isotope tracers, helped improve agricultural science and knowledge. The other side of the story is that agriculture also proved important to the development of nuclear technologies because it provided a clearly peaceful output for atomic research. Atomic agriculture thus frequently assumed a place of prominence for explaining how splitting the atom was a gift to the world and not the red horse rider of the apocalypse.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.