Nano-Agriculture – Micro-Manipulation
The future of large scale agriculture may depend upon the use of very small scale nanoparticles. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Lowry: One of the benefits of nanotechnology is that we can engineer the surfaces of these very very small particles that allows them to attach more strongly to a leaf or to move through the cuticle to the inside of the plant.
Greg Lowry is a Professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
Lowry: We can coat the surfaces of these nano materials with special biomolecules that can then attach those particles to specific locations on the plant. So a stomata is the opening in the plant leaf where the plant breathes essentially – the gases moving in and out of the plant – and also microorganisms, pathogens, enter the plant through those same holes. We can manipulate a nanomaterial so that it attaches to that stomata and is precisely in the location to protect the plant against that pathogen. And we can use a lot less of the material and be more efficient with our material in that way.
Most of our research has shown that these engineered nano materials can be applied in higher concentrations and have lower impacts on on plants than their their chemical counterparts. Many of the nano materials we’re using, for example copper-based nano materials, are in fact certified organic materials and can be used on organic crops. And we’re trying to replace chemical pesticides that do have known toxicity with these nano materials that have much lower toxicity associated with them.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.