Presently agriculture all across the world is facing a wide range of challenges; the important challenges are crop yield stagnation, decrease in arable land due to land degradation and urbanization, low nutrient use efficiency, deficiencies of more than one nutrients in soil, declining soil organic matter, water availability etc. Under these challenges, it would be difficult to produce enough food to feed the ever increasing populations, which is expected to cross 9 billion by 2050.
Nanoscience and Nanotechnology research in agriculture and horticulture are still at an elementary stage but developing rapidly. Conventional bulk fertilizer or traditional fertilizers are not only expensive for the producer, but may be harmful to humans and the environment. This has led to the search for environmentally friendly fertilizers or smart fertilizer, mainly those with high nutrient-use efficiency, and nanotechnology is rising as a promising alternative. In agriculture, nanotechnology products are being tested for various applications, such as nanoscale sensors for sensing nutrients, nanoscale pesticides, smart and target delivery of nutrients, agronomic fortifications, water purification and nutrient recovery.
However, the benefits of nano nutrients are unquestionably opening latest approaches towards precision and sustainable agriculture; their limitations should also be wisely considered before commercial implementation. In particular, the extensive release of nanomaterials into the environment and the food chain may pose a risk to environment and human health.
There are naturally occurring nanoparticles that have been proposed for agricultural use, such as <a href='/product/zeolite-nanoparticles'>zeolite</a> minerals. However, engineered nanomaterials can now be synthesized with a range of desired chemical and physical properties to meet various applications.
Nanofertilizers are being researched as a way to improve nutrient efficiency and better plant nutrition, as compared to traditional fertilizers. A nanofertilizer is any product that is made with nanoparticles or uses nanotechnology to improve nutrient efficiency. Three classes of nanofertilizer have been proposed:
Nanocoatings (such as a nanomembrane) may slow the release of nutrients or a porous nanofertilizer may include a network of channels that retard nutrient solubility. The use of nanotechnology for manure is still in its infancy but is already adopted for medical and engineering applications.
People take vitamins for many different reasons but most often to compensate for compounds whose daily dose they typically cannot meet. While these supplements are supposed to provide the vitamins and nutrients people need, a number of studies have found that some of them can be futile or even harmful. Anti-supplement proponents argue that the content of the pills often cannot be absorbed by the body and used for its desired purpose. In the end the compound of interest (in the pill) is filtered through the renal system and ends up in urine.
This concern is one of the reasons nanoparticles are advantageous for the pharmaceutical industry. Nanoparticles’ shapes can be modified, which means you can make nanotubes or spheres. Those special shapes can carry vitamins and minerals that are often difficult for the body to absorb through traditional mechanisms. The nanoparticles can carry the desired compound through the body so that it gets to its proper location and can be absorbed instead of secreted. This is called increasing the bio-accessibility of the compound.
In spite of all the good that can come from using nanoparticles in this way there is a certain amount of caution and wariness surround nanoparticles. Another major concern with nanoparticles in the food industry relates to the fact that not enough research has been done that looks at how nanoparticles react inside the human body and in the environment. Myriads of people take vitamins and supplements to make up for things they cannot get from their diet or environment. This often means prolonged use of the supplements.
A variety of nanotechnology to be used in food is in development, and a few products have hit the market. But experts say that the traditionally conservative food industry is unlikely to adopt nanotechnology on a large scale unless it has compelling benefits for their business or their customers. One of the main uses could be to deliver more vitamins and minerals through the food we eat. Nanoparticles could encapsulate vitamin supplements, which could be added to everyday foods such as bread.