COLLEGE OF DRYLAND AGRICULTURE AND
The Roles of Nanotechnology in Agriculture:
By: Etany Solomon
Coordinator: Kiros Meles (PhD)
Senior Seminar Two
For example, 35-40% of the crop productivity depends upon fertilizer use.
Pest control has also become a necessity…
However, excessive and inappropriate use of fertilizers and pesticides;
increased nutrients and toxins in ground and surface waters
incurring health and water purification costs
decreasing fishery and recreational opportunities
led to degraded soil quality
eutrophication of aquatic habitats
Costs of irrigation, and energy costs to maintain productivity on degraded soils
killing beneficial organisms
Groundwater levels have also gone down due to constant irrigation.
• To remediate this, there is need to adopt more
"smart" ways of improving soils and pest control.
• To ensure use of small dozes of chemicals to give
a big impact.
• This could be achieved through Nanotechnology
• Nanotechnology hold a potential for creating new
and effective materials with enhanced properties.
• To review different research findings on the role
of Nanotechnology in Agriculture
Focus on crop production
This review was done by ;
reviewing several published articles,
What is it?
• The term 'Nanotechnology' was first defined by Taniguchi of the Tokyo
Science University in 1974.
• Nanotechnology is a term originating from the prefix 'nano', a greek
word that means 'dwarf‘
• Nanotechnology therefore refers to the creation and utilization of
materials, devices and systems through the control of their properties
and structure at a nanomatric scale (Raliya et al., 2013).
• 'Nano', a Greek word that means 'dwarf‘
• The word 'nano' is used to refer to 10-9 or a billionth part of one
• It is generally used for materials of size between 1 and 100 nm
• They are also referred to as Nanoparticles
• In Nanotechnology, a particle is a small object that behaves as a
unit with respect to its transport and properties (Bhattacharyya et
2.3 Methods of Nanoparticle production
Source: Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering (2004)
Top-down method Bottom-up method
Source: Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering (2004)
2.4 Applications of Nanotechnology
Drug development, e.t.c…
Energy More efficient
tech. for energy pdn.
Faster and more efficient computer
Foods and beverages
Advanced packaging materials
Lab-on-chips for food quality testing
Wrinkle free textiles
Household and cosmetics
Scratch free products
Cosmetics, e.g. whitening and
3.0 Nanotechnology in Agriculture
• Due to the new challenges in agriculture, there has been a growing interest
in using nanotechnology.
Goals of applying nanotechnology in Agriculture
• Increase crop production and yield
• Increase resource use efficiency
Specific applications include;
Nanogenetic manipulation of crops
Agricultural Diagnostics, Drug Delivery and Nanotechnology
Controlled release of nano-fertilizers and nano-complexes
Nano pesticides and Nanoherbicides
3.1 Nanogenetic manipulation of agricultural crops
• Manipulation genes of crops by use of nanoparticles, nanofibers and
• Nanoparticles could carry a number of genes and substances that
triggers gene expression in plants.
• DNA of seeds could be arranged to obtain plant x-tics like color,
growth and yield by use of automatic engineering.
• nanofiber arrays with the potential of drug delivery can be used for
quick and efficient delivery of genetic materials to plant cells.
• Today, DNA is being delivered into intact plant cells by use of gene
guns or particle bombardment.
3.2 Agricultural Diagnostics and Drug Delivery
• Carriers that provide for chemical detection and decision taking ability
• Accurate delivery of drugs, nutrients or other agrochemicals required
for the plants.
• Control of plant diseases, e.g. carbon, silver, silica and
• Carbon nano-fibers can be used to strengthen natural fibers, e.g. in
coconuts and sisal.
• Silver NPs extend the pot-life of cut gerbera flowers.
3.3 Controlled release of nano-fertilizers and nano complexes
• Nanomaterials control the slow and effective release of the right doses
of plant nutrients.
• This makes the fertilizer nutrients more available to the nanoscale plant
• The application of TiO2 was reported to increase yields by up to 30% by
promoting growth, photosynthetic rate, and reduced disease severity.
• Appn. of TiO2 with aluminium and silica, showed effectiveness in
controlling downy and powdery mildew of grapes (Bowen et al., 1992),
• These are nano sensors with bio receptor probes, which are selective for target
• Its application includes the detection of analytes such as urea, glucose and
• It also include the monitoring of metabolites and various pathogen detection.
• It also detects crop harvesting time, crop health and microbial or chemical
• Nano-sensors also give accurate soil moisture updates at the root zone and soil
temperature (Shweta and Pragya, 2014).
• It detects soil diseases caused by soil microbes (such as bacteria, fungi and
• A “smart” way to release plant nutrients gradually and in a
• Reduces the quantity of fertilizer use, controlling
eutrophication and pollution of water resources.
• Unique features of nano-fertilizers include ultrahigh
absorption rate, increased production, photosynthesis and
significant leaf SA expansion.
• Maize treated with TiO2 nanoparticles showed significant
growth compared to its bulk treatment.
Effects on crop production
• Nano-urea increased grain yield by 10.2 % and agronomic efficiency of
nitrogen fertilizer 44.5 % than normal urea (Huang et al., 2015).
• Conventional urea are only 58.3-87.6 % of those of the nanometer urea.
• The application of nano-urea can save up to 12.4-41.7 % of nitrogen
application to the soil (Huang et al., 2015).
• 70 % nitrogen nano fertilization treatment yielded 11.6 % higher than that of
the conventional fertilization (Zhang et al. 2010).
• Nano-synergistic fertilizer also increased the rice yield by 10.3 %, spring
maize by 10.9–16.7 %, soybean by 28.8 %, and also increased the soybean oil
content of 13.2 % (Liu et al. 2009).
Contents Pure water
Nano-863 Nanoceramic Nanonet Nanopiece
10.31 10.88 11.75 11.38 10.81
- 5.5 14.0 10.4 4.9
Table 1: Number of rice tiller after treated with different nano
biological assistant growth apparatus
Source: Huang et al., 2015
Fertilization Rate Yield increase
Table 2: The effect of nano-synergistic fertilizer on yield
increase in Rice.
Source: Zhang et al. (2012)
• Pests the most important limiting factors to crop yields and need to be
effectively controlled below the threshold level.
• Traditional pest control involves the use large quantities of pesticides, resulting
in environmental pollution and additional cost of production (Sharon et al.,
• Dilution of the pesticides with the nano-treated water could greatly improve
• This could also reduce the quantity of chemicals used.
• According to Gao (Huang et al., 2015), nano-pesticides are three fold more
efficient than the conventional pesticides in controlling pests .
• It also reduces the cost by half of the conventional pesticides
Active ingredients content 40% 18%
Dilution ratio of pesticide 800 1500
Control efficiency (average) 56% 98%
Table 3: Effects of nano-biopesticide in controlling pests
Source: Huang et al. (2015).
Efficiency of control (%)
1250 36.67E 50.00D 92.50A
1250 53.33C 62.00B 92.50A
Nano-CuO 750 80.00A 84.00A 5.00B
500 71.67B 56.00C 5.00B
250 46.67D 12.00E 0.00C
None 0.00 F 0.00 F 0.00C
Table 4: Antibacterial effect of nano CuO and other fungicides on
different vegetable pathogens (Huang et al., 2015).
Table 2: Antifungal activity of Nano CU2O on Phypthpthora
infestans of tomato (Servin et al., 2015).
• Weed infestation of field crops can also lead to a tremendous yield
reduction if not eliminated.
• Nanoherbicides eradicates weeds in an eco-friendly way, without any
toxic residues in soil and environment (Pérez‐de‐Luque and Rubiales,
• Nanoherbicides blend with soil particles and prevent the growth of
resistant weed species.
• Nanoherbicides kill viable underground ground plant parts like
rhizomes or tubers, which act as a source for new weeds.
• They target specific receptor in the roots of target weeds, and inhibit
glycolysis of food reserves in the root system.
6.0 POTENTIAL RISKS OF NANOTECHNOLOGY
Nanoparticles may enter the human body in four major avenues;
–absorption from skin,
–and deliberate injection during medical processes
•Once they have entered the human body, they have a high degree of
mobility, being small.
•In some cases, they can even cross the blood-brain barrier.
•Therefore the potential danger to human and animals of
nanoparticles should not be neglected.
•Nanoparticle residue is very difficult to be cleared away by common
methods of rinsing.
It can get in to the spleen, brain, liver, heart,
Nanoparticles may gain direct access to
DNA, from the nucleus.
interaction of nanoparticle with the DNA and
DNA-related protein damage the genetic
Ag, ZnO, and TiO2 could all cause oxidative
damage in rat spleen and thymus.
injection of 200 mg/kg nano ZnO showed
mild effects on male mouse liver, kidney, and
the nano ZnO also affected the live sperm
rate and led to sperm deformity.
Nanoparticles tend to be toxic to the
env’t given their size, shape, definite
surface area, and surface modification.
The aqueous suspensions of nZnO, C60,
nTiO2, single-walled carbon nanotubes,
multiwalled carbon nanotubes and
nAl2O3 nanoparticles can inhibit the
growth of algae (Scenedsmus obliquus),
as well as prevent D. magna
movements, and can lead to death.
They can also produce some toxic side
effects on beneficial microorganisms.
• Conventional farming practices are becoming increasingly inadequate, coupled with increasing demands of
the terrestrial ecosystem.
• Adoption of new technologies is crucial if production is to be increased to match the demands for food,
fodder and fiber.
• Nanotechnology guarantees a breakthrough in;
– improving the nutrient use efficiency through nanoformulation of fertilizers,
– breaking yield and nutritional quality barriers through bionanotechnology,
– surveillance and control of pests and diseases,
– understanding the mechanism of host-parasite interactions at the molecular scale, e.t.c…
• However, requires a detailed understanding of science, as well as fabrication and material technology, in
combination with knowledge of the agricultural production system.
• For it to flourish, continuous funding and understanding on the part of policy makers and science
administrators, along with reasonable expectations, would be crucial for this promising field.
• There is an urgent human resources training need on
nanotechnology, especially at the graduate level.
• Need for funding to support the development of nanotechnology,
and research support.
• An understanding of the technology on the part of policy makers
and science administrators.
• More research should be done on the potential adverse effects of
nanomaterials on human health, crops, and the environmental