Nanotechnology advances for sustainable agriculture: current knowledge and prospects in plant growth modulation and nutrition
Main conclusion Advances in nanotechnology make it an important tool for improving agricultural production. Strong evidence supports the role of nanomaterials as nutrients or nanocarriers for the controlled release of fertilizers to improve plant growth. Scientific research shows that nanotechnology applied in plant sciences is smart technology. Excessive application of mineral fertilizers has produced a harmful impact on the ecosystem. Furthermore, the projected increase in the human population by 2050 has led to the search for alternatives to ensure food security. Nanotechnology is a promising strategy to enhance crop productivity while minimizing fertilizer inputs. Nanofertilizers can contribute to the slow and sustainable release of nutrients to improve the efficiency of nutrient use in plants. Nanomaterial properties (i.e., size, morphology and charge) and plant physiology are crucial factors that influence the impact on plant growth. An important body of scientific research highlights the role of carbon nanomaterials, metal nanoparticles and metal oxide nanoparticles to improve plant development through the modulation of physiological and metabolic processes. Modulating nutrient concentrations, photosynthesis processes and antioxidant enzyme activities have led to increases in shoot length, root development, photosynthetic pigments and fruit yield. In parallel, nanocarriers (nanoclays, nanoparticles of hydroxyapatite, mesoporous silica and chitosan) have been shown to be an important tool for the controlled and sustainable release of conventional fertilizers to improve plant nutrition; however, the technical advances in nanofertilizers need to be accompanied by modernization of the regulations and legal frameworks to allow wider commercialization of these elements. Nanofertilizers are a promising strategy to improve plant development and nutrition, but their application in sustainable agriculture remains a great challenge. The present review summarizes the current advance of research into nanofertilizers, and their future prospects.
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