There is a significant potential in the utilization of nanofertilizers to improve agricultural production and yield quality. Sustainability in agriculture with quality products and higher yields is an exigent need of time for the alleviation of food insecurity and hunger. Production and distribution of food are significantly being affected due to global warming, climate change, and pandemic COVID-19. Environmental constraints, biotic, and abiotic stresses, and mismanagement by human beings are directly affecting the fertility and productivity of available agricultural lands and crop production systems. This is not only threatening food security but is also exerting negative influences on both underground and surface water sources. Nanotechnology in agriculture and food production can greatly revolutionize the agriculture and food production.
Challenges to Agriculture and Food Production
These challenges require the considerable attention of researchers, scientists, policymakers, and technology experts to overcome these issues on a sustainable basis. Presently, agriculture and food production systems are greatly being controlled by the use of synthetic chemicals and artificial fertilizers. Degraded soil systems and poor environmental conditions are negatively affecting the solubility, bio availabilities, uptake, translocation, and transformation of fertilizers and applied nutrients. Other than this nutrient used efficiencies of commonly used fertilizers are also low and a major part of the applied fertilizers is lost due to multiple factors such as degradation, microbial immobilization, hydrolysis, leaching, and photolysis.
Problems Associated with Excessive Application of Fertilizers
The excessive and unplanned applications of synthetic fertilizers are creating lethal concerns for human beings, the environment, animals, and aquatic life. Generally, these problems are associated with negative consequences such as groundwater and surface water pollution, eutrophication, soil degradation, and air pollution. Moreover, excessive application of synthetic fertilizers increases the costs of crop production and thereby reduces the net profits of farmers. Furthermore, higher levels of applied fertilizers also alter the forms of nutrients and thereby reduces their availability and uptake to the plants. Nanofertilizers acts as promising tools for sustainable agricultural production.
Role of Nanotechnology to Improve Nutrient Use Efficiency
Nanotechnology is an innovative technique and its utilization, and implementation is essentially helpful to improve sustainable food production. Its controlled application can help to create a better and safe environment and food production systems for overall wellbeing. Recently, various scientific studies have reported that nanotechnology can potentially modify the current status of agricultural production systems. Research regarding the use of nanoparticles, nanocomposites, and nanomaterials has proven the beneficial effects of uptake of nutrients in both degraded and healthy soil conditions. Moreover, the uptake of nanoparticles of different elements has also been tested for different species of plants. Properties of nanofertilizers are making them ideal choice to replace the regular fertilizers.
Nano fertilizers and their Role to Improve Agriculture
Nanofertilizers are a specific term used for the indication of the presence of nanoparticles or nanomaterials in fertilization formulations. Generally, these can also be described as nutrients covered or encapsulated by nanomaterials. Nano fertilizers can be made by using synthetic substances or green materials through biological, mechanical, and chemical methods. Nanofertilizers to improve agricultural production can greatly contribute to food security and development.
Bottom to Up and Top to Down Approaches to Make Nano fertilizers
Bottom to up and top to down are two main approaches for the synthesis of nanofertilizers and researchers can utilize any possible method according to the purpose of research and available facilities. The bottom-up approach is focused to make nano fertilizers from small monomers, molecules, and atoms. While the top-to-down approaches are focused to break down or convert the bulk materials to smaller particles.
Green Synthesis of Nano fertilizers
Green synthesis is an environmentally friendly, and non-toxic approach to make nano fertilizers. Green synthesis is based on the utilization of bacteria, fungi, and plants to make nanoparticles and nano fertilizers. Moreover, there is targeted utilization of microorganisms as stabilizing and reducing agents so there is no use or production of harmful substances and chemicals.
Chemical Synthesis of Nano fertilizers
The chemical synthesis of nano fertilizers can be done by using both bottoms to up and top to down approaches. Chemical approaches are based on the use of toxic chemicals, reducing agents, and metal precursors for the stabilization of these nanomaterials. So, chemically synthesized nano fertilizers can pose significant health concerns for the environment, human beings, animals, and aquatic life.
Categories of Nano fertilizers
The controlled and planned use of nano fertilizers can significantly improve soil fertility, nutrient use efficiencies, and thus food production. These fertilizers can be further categorized into nanoparticulate fertilizers, macro fertilizers, and micro fertilizers. Nano fertilizers have larger surface-area-to-volume ratios and offer a steady and slow rate of nutrients to the rhizosphere and soil. Scientific studies have proven that all nanofertilizers and nanopesticides are higher use efficiency and more environmental friendly. Therefore are essentially good alternatives for sustainable agriculture.
Nanofertilizers to improve agricultural production
Many people have concerns that do nanofertilizers have slow or controlled release? The answer is yes. Nano fertilizers are properly coated or encapsulated with the nanomaterials and therefore they are essentially helpful to release a specific amount of nutrients as required by the plants. The same nutrient that is completely released from regular fertilizer in 4 to 10 days is released by nano fertilizer in 40 to 50 days. Scientific studies have proven that nanohybrid urea offers 12 times slower release than the normally used urea and thus helps to improve the nutrient use efficiency. Nanofertilizers to improve agricultural production are essentially good alternatives to regular fertilizers and offers great production capacities.
Moreover, it also causes a 50% increase in the yields and thus maximizes the crop production and net profit of the farmers. Furthermore, nano fertilizers also influence the metabolic processes affecting the uptake, and accumulation of nutrients in the plants. The attachment of biosensors to the nano fertilizers is not only important to control their release but also helps to improve bioavailability during different growing stages of plants.