TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Centre：Nanotechnology-based Agrochemicals as“Nanonutrifights” and Its Application Practices
Jun. 28, 2019
Nanotechnology has the potential to deliver novel products to improve the performance of vistas, especially in the agriculture and allied sectors. According to TERI’s press release entitled, “Are Natural Alternatives to Pesticides and Fertilisers by Nanotechnology Safe? (2018), various industries, from biotechnology, agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and health, as well as the food sectors, seem to be on firmer footing to use the cutting edge technology using nanoscience. Considering its wide range of uses, the global nanotechnology market is likely to develop at a CAGR of around 17% during the forecasted period of 2019-2024. This will provide a great opportunity for research institutes to develop and collaborate with industry and stakeholders to seek inroads in the fast growing market, which would garner enormous revenues on the back of commercialization of the technology. However, nanotechnology is a multidisplinary branch of science and needs groups of experts from several disciplines to deliver complete solutions to varied problems to allow it’s safe, efficient and cost-effective commercialization.
In terms of agriculture, nanotechnology represents a new frontier by offering potential applications in the field of nanofertilizers and nanopesticides, jointly referred to as “Nanonutrifights”. This desegregation approach of agrinanotechnology has not only revolutionized agriculture with innovative nutrients, in the form of nanofertilizers (NFs), but also protects plants from phytopathogens. According to leading R &D analyses, research in agricultural nanotechnology applications has been on-going for much of a decade, searching for solutions to several agricultural and environmental challenges, such as sustainability, improved varieties and increased productivity. Several institutes have shown the growing trend of both scientific publications and patents in agricultural nanotechnology, especially for disease management and crop protection. The nano based delivery system for delivery of “Nanonutrifights” will offer a very cost effective approach, with the enhanced efficacy of active principles. Nano based system in agriculture attempt to reduce the dose of active ingredients, minimise nutrient losses and increase yields through optimised water and nutrient management.
Problems with existing technologies and corresponding solutions
Agrochemicals are the chemical products composed of active ingredients that are used in agriculture as fertilizers and pesticides, to enhance the productivity of plants and management of plant diseases, respectively. The disproportionate use of agrochemicals in high concentrations has led to the contamination of soil and groundwater by entering in the food chains, causing hazards to humans and animals. In addition, the runoff (or leaching from the soil) of agrochemicals into water resources can cause an adverse impact on the life-cycle of fish and other aquatic animals.
There is a large list of hurdles associated with conventional pesticides, such as non-biodegradability, resulting in long time persistency of pesticides in the field, frequently drift away (due to wind or air convection arrays) from the targeted field, high doses required because more than 30% of effective doses leach out from the soil, off target applications that contaminate much wildlife. Furthermore, conventional agrochemicals might not be helpful under these circumstances, as these have become expensive due to high energy requirements and being environmentally unsafe(Figure 1).
Figure 1. Schematic representation of use of nanotechnology innovations helps in the delivery of agrochemicals in plant systems and soil
To address these limitations, the exploitation of the nanobased delivery system could be a promising alternative for sustained release of agrochemicals, to maintain the desirable activity and alleviate the potentially damaging impacts on the environment.
Recent translational innovations in the field of nanotechnology have transformed the world with distinctive nanomaterials, such as “Nanonutrifights”, and increased growth and productivity of crops. These forefront applications require the appropriate chemical functionalization of nanoparticles with organic molecules, or their absorption in an appropriate polymer matrix for sustained release. The polymer based nanocomposites material is a ground-breaking product, offering nanofillers dispersed in the matrix of polymers, and has received much attention recently. We have developed biodegradable and biocompatible chitosan-metal nanocomposites with prolonged antimicrobial activities of metals (copper, silver and zinc oxide nanoparticles) and lower toxicity toward mammalian cells. Various attempts have been made to improve the antimicrobial activity of active ingredients, such as structural modification, adjustment of molecular factors, and forming complexes and their sustained release using nano based delivery systems. In practice, agrochemicals have been modified with the help of nanotechnology as “Nanonutrifights”, which are considered alternative routes to conventional fertilizers and pesticides.
The National Centre of Excellence in Nanotechnology for Agriculture and Environment and National Facility for Toxicology, Life Cycle and Regulations at -TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Research Centre (TDNBC), supported and funded by the Department of Biotechnology, India, is committed to sustainable activities and practices to reduce environmental hazards of agrochemicals, which is one of the globally defined challenges, and engaged in various research activities, such as synthesis of nanopesticides and nanofertilizers, and their encapsulation using eco-friendly nanomaterial with prolonged activities, providing benefits to the plants beyond basic nutrition. In addition, TDNBC has been developing smart delivery systems loaded with nanoforms of iron and zinc, primarily focusing to reduce the loss of active ingredients in conventional delivery systems due to volatilization or chemical reactions, microbial degradation, etc. Developing such nano-carriers can contribute to minimizing these losses. Furthermore, we have developed plant nutrients from industrial waste and will be the initiator to offer such an innovative approach towards providing sustainable solutions in agriculture around the globe. Also, we are participating in advanced research by developing more stable "nano emulsions" of pesticides having increased efficacy with lower application rates and controlled release.
Future development prospects
In order to improve the prevalent properties of agrochemicals, interactions between agrochemicals and plants can provide vital clues for the development of the translational technology, which can further generate significant benefits to farmers by improving field performance and reducing input expenses, not only in terms of cost, but also by reducing application losses. In the agrochemical sector, there are two main key players, industries and research institutes. Research institutes have robust capabilities to develop “nano-actives” or “nano-formulations” and industries typically deliver the product from research laboratories to the market. Moreover, both players can progress effectively and find better solutions for sustainable agriculture with nanotechnology.
We have also been developing next generation agronanoproducts, such as nano fertilizers, nano-pesticides andnanocarriers, with their complete life cycles, toxicity and regulatory assessments for agricultural use and increasing our research and market capabilities for ongoing growth in the agricultural
field. There are various methods and technologies that have been developed by TDNBC for increased production, market access, and promoting sustainable farming practices. TDNBC is looking forward to creating collaborative research platforms which will be ready to translate its knowledge base at the grass root level, together in a coordinated fashion. The collaboration between TDNBC, TERI, New Delhi and industrial partners will create solutions in sustainable agriculture throughout world using nanotechnology.
The TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Research Centre (TDNBC) offers to join in and support the government’s vision to promote and assist further in implementing innovation and translational research”, said Alok Adholeya, senior director (sustainable agriculture) at TERI, New Delhi, India.
Research in frontier areas of precision and smart agriculture, through innovative disruptive nanotechnology, might be the most promising step which may replace hurdles of existing agrochemicals. Understanding the development of these technologies and their applications, as well as public acceptance and societal impact in the coming era, will be crucial in bringing nanotechnology to the market to provide better and moresustainable solutions.
About TERI- Deakin Nanobiotechnology Centre (TDNBC)
The TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Centre (TDNBC) was established in 2011 by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), one of country’s leading think-tanks, in collaboration with Deakin University, Australia, with the directive of developing groundbreaking nanobiotechnology centred solutions to address current challenges in the field of agriculture and environment. Conjointly supported by both organizations, the Centre aims to take global platforms through nanobiotechnology interventions in agriculture, environment, and energy, by developing multidisciplinary methodologies, tools and technologies. Considering the importance of translational research in agriculture and environment, the Centre is uniquely poised to develop disruptive technologies using biocompatible nanomaterials. Such events are being brought together through strategic alliances with Deakin University and partners worldwide.
This article was initially published in AgroPages '2019 Formulation & Adjuvant Technology ' magazine. Download the PDF version of the magazine to read more articles.
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