Attempts to use nanotechnology in agriculture began with a growing understanding and realization that traditional agricultural technologies will not be able to further increase efficiency or restore ecosystems that have been impacted by current technologies ; especially because of the long-term effects of farming with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In this article, we cover the fundamentals of nanotechnology, its application, perspectives, and future challenges.
What is nanotechnology
Nanotechnology is the study and management of matter at the nanoscale, where unique phenomena offer revolutionary applications with dimensions ranging from 1 to 100 nanometers. Nanotechnology involves the effective manipulation and control of nanoparticles.
Nanotechnology has made a significant contribution to sustainable agriculture by increasing crop yields and restoring and improving soil quality.
Nanotechnology is used in a variety of agricultural applications including:
Delivery of nano pesticides
Bio-fertilizer containing nanoparticles are gradually and regulated released.
Application of nano-biosensors for rapid detection of phytopathogens and other biotic and abiotic stressors in plant growth.
Nanoparticles used in the agricultural sector
Below are some of the nanoparticles commonly used in agriculture.
Polymeric nanoparticles are used in agriculture to deliver agrochemicals in a gradual and regulated manner. Polymeric nanoparticles have several advantages, including greater biocompatibility and reduced impact on non-target species.
Silver nanoparticles are widely used as antimicrobial agents against a variety of plant pathogens. According to researchers, silver nanoparticles have also been shown to improve plant growth.
As an effective pesticide, several chemical companies use nano aluminum-Silicate formulations.
Carbon nanoparticles such as graphene, graphene oxide, carbon dots and fullerenes are used for better seed germination.
Other nanoparticles used in agriculture include copper oxide, zinc oxide, nanoparticles, and magnetic nanoparticles.
Increasing crop productivity through agricultural nanotechnology
Non-herbicides, nano-fertilizers, nano-biosensors and nano-pesticides are some of the examples where nanotechnology has been used to increase crop productivity.
nanoherbicide and nanopesticide
The use of nanoherbicides and nanopesticides to control weeds and pests has significantly increased agricultural production. Nanoparticles of various types, such as polymeric nanoparticles and inorganic nanoparticles, are used in nanoherbicide formulations.
Nanomaterials for disease management
Massive agricultural losses are suffered every year due to microbial infections (viruses, fungi and bacteria). Nanomaterials with antimicrobial properties help prevent microbiological invasions.
To combat nutrient deficiencies in plants, scientists used nanotechnology to build an intelligent delivery system that distributes nutrients to target sites in a gradual and regulated manner. Nano-fertilizers increase crop yields by increasing the availability of vital nutrients to the plant.
Compared to conventional biosensors, nanobiosensors are far more sensitive and selective.
Nanobiosensors enable real-time signal monitoring and are used to directly or indirectly identify pathogenic microorganisms.
Perspectives and challenges in the application of nanotechnology in agriculture
Nanotechnology will revolutionize the agricultural sector and food industry by developing new techniques such as climate-friendly agriculture, increased uptake of plant nutrients, more efficient and effective use of inputs, disease detection and management.
The main concerns with nano-enabled products are the potential future amounts of nanoparticles that will be used, as they have been found to have negative effects at various levels at increased dosages. The continued use of nano-enabled products, particularly in agriculture, has the potential to increase the number of nanoparticles in soil and plants. This will eventually lead to negative health effects.