Nanotechnology has importance in a wide range of key and revolutionary applications, including medicine, the bioremediation of polluted soils, and agriculture wastewater treatment, among others (Dasgupta et al. 2016). Generally, agriculture utilizes chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers in extensive amounts that contribute to the acceleration of soil degradation. In the same way, nanotechnology can devise a way to offset those chemicals and improve the utilization of new products to achieve efficiency in plants and crops (Kumar et al. 2018). In the last 20 years a lot of research work has specifically focused on the applications of nanotechnology to solve issues and to improve agricultural research (Mishra et al. 2014a; 2016; 2017). The above could be achieved through the release of nanofertilizers to enhance plant growth, and increase food production, taking into account food preservation, the detection of bacteria and contaminants, and the reduction of nutrient loss, to shape sustainable agriculture. Other studies could also show the importance of these cutting-edge knowledge areas (nanoscience and nanotechnology) that suggest the solution to the problem of deficiency and availability of micro- and macronutrients to produce healthy, affordable, and innocuous food (Paine and Paine 2012).

The researchers have to consider the different aspects in the use of nanotechnology in agriculture that allow the elimination of the use of chemicals as fertilizers, meet the demand for the production of food and crops due to the increase in the global population, and care for the environment. The only purpose is to deliver the correct quantity of nutrients and pesticides that promote productivity (Singh et al. 2017; Yata et al. 2018) and favor agricultural practices without causing damage.

Applications of Nanotechnology in Agriculture

The issue of integrating nanotechnology in agriculture provides a mode of sensing, detection, and bioremediation (Pandey 2018) through:

  • • Controlling the release of water and nutrients,
  • • Sustained delivery of herbicide, pesticides, and insecticide, and
  • • Monitoring environmental conditions.

Nowadays a wide range of applications of nanotechnology in agriculture exists: nanoremediation, nanofertilizers, nanocomposites, and nanosensors, among others. (Pandey 2018; Paine and Paine 2012) The above has become a reality because science is looking to stop the use of inorganic and organic compounds such as chlorinated phenols or halogenated hydrocarbons, among others, which could contribute to soil degradation and environmental contamination (Figure 2.2).

Modern and traditional agricultural supplies, a) Different applications of nanotechnology in agriculture, b) Chemical products used in conventional agriculture

FIGURE 2.2 Modern and traditional agricultural supplies, a) Different applications of nanotechnology in agriculture, b) Chemical products used in conventional agriculture.


Until 2015, there were no registered nanopesticides on the market due to the risks they represented (Kah 2015); nevertheless, some metal NPs can be used as pesticides because of such characteristics as large surface area, stability, and biodegradability (Khot et al. 2012). For example, application of nanosilver is utilized to fight against pathogens (Fraceto et al. 2018; Mishra et al. 2014b; Yasur and Rani 2013). Larue et al. (2014) reported the possible safe use of nanosilver for disease control in lettuce according to the neutral effects found on the growth of the plant (100 pg/g). It is well known that silver is antimicrobial, and it has positive effects on Bacopa monnieri plants, thus it may be considered as an excellent candidate as a nanopesticide compared to bulk silver compounds (Achari and Kowshik 2018).


To facilitate plant growth and crop productivity it is useful to deliver nanoparticles in a safe dosage. In the same way, it is important to implement new strategies to amend macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies in agricultural soils (Achari and Kowshik 2018; Pandey 2018). NPs of essential and non-essential elements can affect the growth of different plants. Even w'hen some NPs are not essential, elements have a positive effect on plants directly related to growth, physiological processes, and disease control (Table 2.2). These studies suggest that some elements such as Ag, Au, or titanium (Ti) present a hormesis effect (Achari and Kowshik 2018; Arora et al. 2012; Fageria et al. 2009; Khot et al. 2012; Rico et al. 2011).

Some reports present the effectiveness of soil application of nanofertilizers of Zn, Fe, N, P, and К because these are more effective than conventional fertilizers due to the efficient plant uptake of nanoparticles as a function of their small size (Gunaratne et al. 2016).

Nanosensors and Nanocomposites

A nanosensor is a powerful tool employed in the detection of pollutants in contaminated environments based on nanomaterials that provide several advantages. The innovation of these


Overview of the Effects of Nanoparticles with Essential and Nonessential Elements for Terrestrial Plants


Effects on edible or non-edible plants


With essential elements


At concentrations of 100,200,400 and 600 mg/L copper nanoparticles present significant inhibition of seed germination and root elongation.

Moon et al. (2014)


Zinc nanoparticles promote germination rate at 10 mg/L for corn on hydroponic culture.

Zhang et al. (2015)


Fe,0, nanoparticles reduced chlorophyll content and growth in Arabidopsis thaliana at 4 ppm. The study suggests that nanoparticles were not taken up and therefore not bioavailable.

Marusenko et al. (2013)


Co,04 nanoparticles at 5 g/L improve the root elongation of radish seedlings.

Wuet al. (2012)

With non-essential elements


An increase in shoot length, leaf area, and root dry weight on Vida faba after seven days of exposure time (0.01%).

Abdel Latef et al. (2018)


A positive response in the growth of Brassica juncea and V. unguiculate at 50-75 ppm.

Pallavi et al. (2016)


At 50 ppm of A1;0, nanoparticles, soybean presents enhanced growth under flooding stress.

Ma et al. (2010)


At 2000 mg/L, seed germination of corn, tomato, and cucumber reduced, and root elongation of corn and cucumber increased when roots were exposed over eight days.

Lopez-Moreno et al. (2010)


Photosynthesis was the main process affected by the addition of Cd in Helianthus annuus L. at 50 mg.

Lopes Junior et al. (2015)

nanomaterials is presented according to their highly sensitive response, selectivity, and portability. Great advances have been made in the detection of heavy metal ions in water, and they are better than conventional instruments. These nanosensors have been reported for applications in providing crop production that promises to change the agricultural sector to enhance food production because they allow monitoring in real time (Kim et al. 2018; Leon-Silva et al. 2018; Ullah et al. 2018).

Nanosensors can also monitor temperature, traceability, and humidity, among others. Therefore, nanoparticles in nanosensors might help farmers to maintain precise control. On the other hand, with the approach of polymers and biopolymers and their special properties such as mechanical strength, thermal stability, and resistance, nanocomposites play a role in the conventional technology to take advantage of polymer properties. For example, a nanocomposite of biopolymers has a promising future in the food industry, but it also enables the mediated delivery of nutrients as part of a smart system to reduce nutrient loss and increase uptake in the plant (Kumar et al. 2017; Yata et al. 2018).

Impact on Health, Society, and Economy

Agro-nanotechnology, with the implementation of nanofertilizers, nanosensors, and nanopesticides, has changed and revolutionized research worldwide (Yata et al. 2018). In the future, nanotechnology can provide solutions to address crop production, disease prevention, food quality, and sustainable agriculture in a green environment, such as the case of India which has proposed creating an Indian Institute of Nanotechnology in Agriculture (Pandey 2018).

However, all the effects caused by application of NPs are unique, and there is not a universal property in the response of plants. So, there is an urgent need to study the different effects of these nanomaterials according to plant species, soil properties, environmental characteristics, physicochemical factors, characterization of nanoparticle properties, analysis of their interactions, assessment of human exposure, testing of different sizes and concentrations of nanoparticles, and investigations of the effects on human health (Achari and Kowschik 2018; Nelson 2008). The above, through nanotoxicological studies, seeks to establish standard procedures for the safe use of nanoparticles in agriculture to preserve human and environmental health.

The main cause for the lack of application of nanoagriculture is because of the need for more studies, the unsuitable regulatory strategies, laws, normativity, and civic/social opinions. For these reasons, the acceptance of use nanoparticles depends mainly on safety concerns and the social implications. Future research has to focus on carrying out studies under controlled conditions but also long-term studies to evaluate a more realistic approach, the implications of nanotechnology on the growth of plants, and toxicological studies to prevent the risk to food quality (Du et al. 2017). Some researchers suggest that agro-nanotechnology is the best option in agricultural innovation because it allows avoiding the use of chemicals, implements sustainable practices, takes care of the environment, and prevents future shortages due to food demand and global population growth. However, it has to be taken into account that nanoscience and nanotechnology in agriculture have not been studied enough, so if this cutting-edge knowledge spreads its technological developments, humanity could soon be facing environmental problems.

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