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Nanotechnology Can Transform Agriculture

Nanotechnology Can Transform Agriculture
Combined with the impacts of climate control, production increases and scarce land have become prominent issues in agriculture on a global scale. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has predicted that the world population will approach 10 billion by 2050. As a result, the growing population will need to explore new ways of agriculture efficiency. Agrochemicals are the current method of intense crop production. However, these agrochemicals negatively affect the environment, as they contain pesticides and growth hormones which have toxic effects on consumers. Fortunately, a new solution has risen, as nanotechnology has the potential to be the answer to both efficient fertilization and crop protection. Here is some information about how nanotechnology can transform agriculture.

Current Sustainability Methods

Developing nations currently use three main sustainable methods of agriculture. First, sustainable agriculture is a farming philosophy that focuses on resource maintenance. Unlike intensive agriculture, sustainable agriculture follows natural harvest cycles, reducing the use of agrochemicals and recycling water and nutrients. Permaculture, hydroponics and agroforestry are all methods of sustainable agriculture. These three tools allow farmers to recreate natural ecosystems and help raise livestock in safe grasslands. This healthy environment produces better food quality and plant health, as livestock manure, soils and fertilizers get proper nutrients from the excrement recycling system.

Precision farming is another form of agriculture that aims to improve sustainability. This method focuses on monitoring pest and disease management, something smallholder farms in developing countries cannot regulate as much. One benefit is that precision farming aids farmers in developing cropping plans. Farmers are thus able to “combin[e] forecast data with the crop models, allow[ing] [farmers] to present data-supported recommendations that are implementable at small and large scales.” Overall, these cropping plans allow farmers to improve their environmental efforts of sustainability in an economically beneficial way.

Lastly, Climate Smart-Villages exist within rural farms in India, Columbia and Nepal. These villages deal with climate fluctuation data to anticipate participatory methods. Smart technologies, forecast services and adoption planning all help to improve harvesting techniques and plant planning. In order to increase water retention and reduce the risk of fertilizer loss, climate-smart farming reduces greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration. With these villages in place, farmers can find alternative wetting and drying methods in rice paddies, thus “reduc[ing] water consumption by 50% and reduce[ing] GHG emissions by 30-50%.” Overall, the method is able to limit consumption and improve crop growth, thus making it a more sustainable farming technique.

The Nano-Particle Solution

Climate Villages, precision farming and sustainable agriculture offer solutions to the environmental crisis in developing countries. A new method of nanotechnology that can transform agriculture is undergoing development to create materials from biological nano-structures that work within gases, liquids and solids to manipulate atomic properties. The medical field, cosmetics and electronics already use nanoparticles (NPs) due to their expansive chemical and biological properties.

When applied to agriculture, NPs work through the cellular system so they can remain within the farm’s ecosystem. NPs also help change the rate of a plant’s retainment of water, oxygen growth, sun absorption and chromosomal activity. Other developments like nano-pesticides help to regulate the number of pesticides that negatively affect food production and nano-fertilizers. Nano-fertilizers are thus able to enhance agricultural yield and reduce the use of zinc, silica and titanium dioxide.

Improving Precision Farming with NPs

One of the best features of nano-particles is the opportunity to increase funding and popularity with seed treatment. In order to improve the environmental impact of agriculture in developing countries, implementing the use of NPs into popular methods of agriculture, such as precision farming, is a feasible solution. This form of agriculture uses GPS satellite signals to gain information about harvest fluctuations by interpreting the position, velocity and time of the surrounding climate.

Nano-sensors pair well with GPS technology. These sensors work as small monitors that confirm the soil’s conditions and plant growth during changing climate. With nano-sensors, precision farming can increase production quickly with minimal cost. The United States and Australia are currently profiting from nano-sensors. Both countries have been using this technology in vineyards to grow high-quality grapes at an optimal price point.

Being able to apply nanotechnology to well-running methods of sustainable agriculture has proven to be successful so far. Developing countries such as India, Iran and Thailand have experienced economic growth with the use of nanotechnology. In India, the production of efficient water fertilizers, soil conservation, livestock nutrients and plant health monitoring have been positive changes for agriculture there. Going forward, nanotechnology can be the new solution that allows farmers to be successful in their farming without using toxic GMOs or agrochemicals. Nanotechnology can transform agriculture and is the future of farming. When applied sustainably, it can produce major changes in the world of agriculture.

Matthew Martinez
Photo: Flickr