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Nanotechnology in Agriculture


Technical innovation in agriculture is of extreme importance, in particular to address global challenges such as population growth, climate change and the limited availability of important plant nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium. Nanotechnology applied to agricultural production could play a fundamental role for this purpose and research on agricultural applications is ongoing for largely a decade by now. The application of nanomaterials in agriculture aims in particular to reduce applications of plant protection products, minimize nutrient losses in fertilization, and increase yields through optimized nutrient management. Despite these potential advantages, the agricultural sector is still comparably marginal and has not yet made it to the market to any larger extent in comparison with other sectors of nanotechnology application.

New devices and tools, like nanocapsules, nanoparticles and even viral capsids, are examples of uses for the detection and treatment of diseases, the enhancement of nutrients absorption by plants, the delivery of active ingredients to specific sites and water treatment processes. The use of target-specific nanoparticles can reduce the damage to non-target plant tissues and the amount of chemicals released into the environment. Nanotechnology derived devices are also explored in the field of plant breeding and genetic transformation. In this respect, particularly attractive are nanoparticles derived from biopolymers such as proteins and carbohydrates with low impact on human health and the environment. For instance, the potential of starch-based nanoparticles as nontoxic and sustainable delivery systems for agrochemicals and biostimulants is being extensively investigated.

Nanomaterials and nanostructures with unique chemical, physical, and mechanical properties (e.g. electrochemically active carbon nanotubes, nanofibers and fullerenes) have been recently developed and applied for highly sensitive bio-chemical sensors. These nanosensors have also relevant implications for application in agriculture, in particular for soil analysis, easy bio-chemical sensing and control, water management and delivery, pesticide and nutrient delivery

Nanotechnology in Agriculture

Silver nanoparticles Dispersions: 
Silver (Ag) is known to have antimicrobial activity both in ionic or nanoparticles forms. The powerful antimicrobial effect of silver especially in unicellular microorganisms is believed to be brought about by enzyme inactivation. Nano silver whose antimicrobial effect has been tested against many disease causing pathogens of animals and plants is the most studied and utilized nanoparticle. Silver is also an excellent plant growth stimulator. Antifungal effect of nano silver colloids (average diameter of 1.5 nm) was studied against the powdery mildew pathogen of rose caused by Sphaerotheca pannosa var. rosae. Silver is now an accepted agrochemical replacement’ and maximum no. of patents are filed for ‘nano silver’ for preservation and treatment of diseases in agriculture field.

Silica nanoparticles Dispersions:
These are silica (SiO2) nanoparticles with regularly arranged pores which increase the surface area of the nanoparticles. Targeted delivery of chemicals and DNA can be made by mesoporous silica nanoparticles. It offers the possibility of genetic manipulation of plants, delivery of chemicals at targeted site in plant, improve efficiency of used chemical and reduce the chemical residue problem to the minimum.

Nano-copper Dispersions:
Nano-copper was reported to be highly effective in controlling bacterial diseases viz. bacterial blight of rice (Xanthomonas oryzae pv.oryzae) and leaf spot of mung (X. campestris pv.  Phaseoli).

Carbon nanotubes:
Carbon nanotubes have shown growth enhancing effect on tomato when grown in soil containing Carbon nanotubes. It is believed that carbon nanotubes entered the germinating tomato seeds thus facilitating water uptake and plant growth.

Chitosan Dispersions:
Chitosan is a modified biopolymer, derived by partial deacetylation of chitin. It consists of alternating units of (1à 4) linked N-acetyl glucosamine and glucosamine units. It is a white, hard, inelastic and nitrogenous polysaccharide. Chitosan finds multifaceted applications due to its nontoxicity, biodegradability and antimicrobial properties. It is used in biomedical industries, agriculture, genetic engineering, food industry, environmental pollution control, water treatment, paper manufacture, photography and so on. Chitosan nanoparticles (ChNP) have the characteristics of chitosan and the properties of nanoparticles such as surface and interface effect, small size and quantum size effects.

Nano-iron Dispersions:
Movement and behavior of nanoparticles and their curative affect is being studied more extensively involving humans. They applied iron nanoparticles coated with carbon to pumpkin plants for treating specific plant part that is infected.


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