The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES),
Keywords: agrochemical, nanoscale, crops, food
Summary:Low use and delivery efficiency of conventional agrichemicals is a significant impediment to maintaining global food security, particularly given that a 60-70% increase in food production is needed by 2050 to support the projected population. Further confounding these efforts is a changing climate, which may force increased cultivation of crops under more marginal and stress-inducing conditions. Thus, novel and sustainable strategies for enhancing food production are needed all along the “farm-to-fork” continuum. One area we have focused on is using nanotechnology to increase the delivery efficiency and efficacy of nutrients. For example, given the known role of micronutrients in plant growth and defense against both abiotic and biotic stresses, we began mechanistic investigations into the potential of nanoscale micronutrient platforms for enhancing nutritional status and disease resistance. In a number of studies, foliar amendment of nanoscale materials such as CuO, CuS, S, and SiO2 have been shown to significantly alleviate damage caused by the fungal and viral pathogens, resulting in enhanced growth and yield. Importantly, disease suppression is largely a function of modulated plant nutrition and disease resistance and not direct toxicity against the pathogen. Separately, we are also looking at novel biopolymer-based nanocomposites as a means to enhance the precision of phosphorus delivery while minimizing run-off and damage to the ecosystem. Other studies are focused on the use of nanoscale metal oxides to enhance photosynthetic efficiency under stressed and non-stressed conditions. Across all of these projects, it is clear that the ability to effectively tune nanoscale material structure and composition will be critical to maximizing positive impacts, including significantly reduced amounts of agrichemical use. Results will be presented from several studies where manipulation of nanoparticle synthesis resulted in tunable and sustainable materials that yielded greater plant health and crop yield by a range of agronomic endpoints.