Nano-Chemicals in Agriculture

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  • Published: 10 May 2018
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA
  • Source / Publisher: Nature Nanotechnology/Macmillan Publishers Limited
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Using nanotechnology is one approach to tackle the problem of a rising demand for food due to the world's growing population. Formulating fertilizers or pesticides as nanoparticles, nanoemulsions, nanocapsules, etc. could improve their targeted delivery and efficiency. However, there is no comprehensive research that compares the benefits and risks of such nanoagrochemicals with conventional products.

Melanie Kah, University of Vienna, Austria, and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Adelaide, Australia, Thomas Daniel Bucheli, Agroscope, Zurich, Switzerland, and colleagues have performed a literature study to evaluate these differences for nanopesticides and nanofertilizers. The team analyzed 78 papers on the topic of nanoagrochemicals that compared the products' properties with those of commercial formulations.

Overall, the researchers found a 20–30 % median rise in efficiency for the nanoformulations compared with conventional pesticides or fertilizers. Some nanopesticides, for example, were found to be twice as toxic to the target organisms than the same active ingredient in its pure form. According to the team, reducing the use of agrochemicals by 20–30 % while maintaining similar performance could significantly reduce their environmental impact.

However, for many products, there were no published results of comprehensive field testing. According to the team, the nanoagrochemicals' efficacy and environmental impact in the field could be very different from those found in laboratory studies. In addition, the characterization of the tested nanomaterials in many studies was insufficient to allow for a conclusive comparison and risk evaluation. The team concludes that there is a need for comprehensive studies of nanoagrochemicals—in the field, with proper characterization, and in comparison to both conventional formulations and the pure active ingredient—to form a basis for the responsible use of nanotechnology in agriculture.


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