Exploring the Potential of Nanotechnology in Agriculture: Current Research and Future Prospects

Mitali Mishra, Ashutosh Kumar Pandey,

Kritika Pandey, Saurabh Dixit, Fatima Zohra, Aparna Seth and Sanchita Singh

Introduction

Nanotechnology is a multidisciplinary branch of science that is linked with many other areas of science like chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, electronics, and material sciences (Wang and Wang 2014). It can be defined as a field of applied sciences and engineering that focuses on controlling matter of size 1-100 nm and fabrication of tools, devices, and systems on this scale. Nanotechnology recasts the existing sciences, employing novel or advanced terms. Undoubtedly, exceptional features of materials at the nanometer scale make them suitable for the fabrication and design of new tools and systems in order to facilitate sustainable development in the agriculture sector. In this sector, nanotechnology interventions provide tools like nanoparticles (NPs), nanorods, nanocapsules, and quantum dots that help to increase yield, promote a targeted supply of nutrients, detect pathogens, absorb toxic compounds, and confer tolerance against biotic and abiotic stress. Some of the applications of nanotechnology are shown in Figure 13.1. NPs of silicon, carbon, titanium.

Applications of nanotechnology in sustainable agriculture silver, copper, etc

FIGURE 13.1 Applications of nanotechnology in sustainable agriculture silver, copper, etc. have been reported to be good growth enhancers with positive effects on growth of seedlings, roots, and shoots. However, the effects of these NPs on plants depends on their composition, amount, size, charges, chemical properties, and the affinity of the plants to these NPs. Development of novel nanobased fertilizers and pesticides with modified carrier systems has further improved the productivity of crops by increasing nutrient absorption from the soil, protecting the plants from pest attacks. In addition, nanobiotechnology makes the understanding of plant-pest or plant-parasite interactions more feasible. Nanofabricated xylem vessels are found to be potent systems in the understanding of plant-pathogen interactions.

Practices that ensure the early detection of disease are of importance in agronomy. Nanobiosensors and nanobarcodes are the new vistas in this regard as they facilitate earlier and more precise detection of diseases. They can also be used in analyzing the health, moisture content, and nutrition contents of soil. In the light of the various potential applications of nanotechnology, there is a need to explore nanomaterials further. There is a need to find nanomaterials that ca show less toxicity towards the agro-ecosystem after release into the environment and, more importantly their relevance should be explored up to field conditions. This chapter envisages the applications of different types of nanobased miniature systems, tools, and techniques in agronomy, covering new advancements in nanotechnology in the field of agriculture as well as the scope of this multidisciplinary science in developing countries like India.

Multifaceted Role of Nanotools and their Potential Applications

Nanoparticles

The role of different NPs in the field of agriculture is to monitor soil quality, maintain food quality, reduce the passage of chemicals and heavy metals into plant tissue, increase the absorption of nutrients from the soil, protect plants from abiotic and biotic stress, and increase the yield of a desired product. Their small size (1-Ю0 nm) and greater surface-area-to-volume ratio make the properties of NPs different from those of the same material in bulk.

Silicon Nanoparticles

Silicon is considered an essential microelement. It is not required for growth but plays a vital role in plant adaptation during adverse conditions and influences the metabolic activities, growth, development, and productivity of a plant. Unpredictable changes in abiotic factors, i.e., wind, water, atmosphere, sunlight, and chemicals, causing abiotic stress, affects the physiological processes of plant that further damage its cell structure, functioning, and metabolic activities. Emergence of a nanosilicon film at the epidermis proves helpful in conditions such as dry spells and dampness and also protects vegetation from fungal, bacterial, and nematodal infection (Rastogi et al., 2019). Silicon NPs improve the antioxidant defense mechanism against heavy metal stress by acting against reactive oxygen species (ROS), a response generated during abiotic stress that is responsible for plant cell disruption.

At times of high chemical stress, silicon prevents the uptake of heavy metals from the soil thus regulating the ROS profile. The mesoporosity of silicon NPs makes them a good delivering agent or nanocarrier in the field of agriculture; they are also used as nanopesticides, nanoherbicides, and nanofertilizers to protect a plant from pests and unwanted vegetation. It is an agent for cell-wall strengthening, water retention in soil, and soil monitoring (Rastogi et al„ 2019).

 
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