Nanotechnology in the Production of Fertilizers

Applied Tech Review | Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Formulations of nano fertilizers can offer balanced nutrition for crops throughout the growth cycle, enhancing agricultural production.

FREMONT, CA: Fertilizers play a key role in accelerating agricultural production, but excessive use of chemical fertilizers damages soil's chemical ecology and lessens the available area for crop production. Sustainable agriculture demands reduced use of agrochemicals. Advanced nanoengineering techniques are being harnessed to overcome agricultural issues by developing an enhanced crop production system that assures sustainability.

Nanomaterials enhance crops' productivity and efficiently regulate the delivery of nutrients to crops and targeted sites, guaranteeing the reduced usage of agrochemicals. In traditional agriculture, an excess of fertilizer is applied directly into the soil or sprayed on the crops, which surpasses the plant's nutritional requirement. This is because a low percentage of fertilizer reaches its target. This excess of chemical fertilizer negatively impacts the soil's nutrient balance and causes contamination of water supplies due to the leaching of toxic materials. Nanomaterials can boost crop yield by increasing fertilizer nutrient availability in soil and nutrient uptake by plants.

These materials can suppress crop diseases by applying directly on phytopathogens through several mechanisms, including the production of reactive oxygen species. These materials also improve crop production indirectly by enhancing crop nutrition and boosting plant defense pathways. The efficient use of nanomaterials may mitigate the negative environmental effect of conventional agricultural practices. In laboratory analyses, it has been said that nano fertilizers can enhance crop productivity by bettering the rate of germination, growth, and photosynthetic activity.

Nanomaterials incite the root and leaf surface, which are the major nutrient gateways of plant systems and highly porous at the nanoscale. The use of nano fertilizers can improve the plant's nutrient uptake, or the process can facilitate complexation with molecular transporters through the generation of new pores or by the exploitation of endocytosis or ion channels.  A decrease in the size of nanomaterials facilitates an increase in the surface mass ratio of particles. This allows the absorption of abundant nutrient ions that is later desorbed slowly and steadily for a long period.

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