Could nanotechnology provide solutions to agricultural problems?

23 November 2012

Posted by Satvir Bhullar

More could be done to address problems within the agricultural industry through the use of nanotechnology, according to one expert.

German specialist Clemens Breisinger, an International Food Policy Research Institute, Agricultural Economist and Senior Researcher, explained that scientists are looking at the field in order to identify ways of improving farming efficiency.

In an interview with Euractiv, he stated crop yields could be increased using nanoscience "as incomes grow, people tend to eat richer food, more meat".

With levels of consumption rising around the world and increasing competition for resources, scientists are exploring ways of boosting food production and Mr Breisinger noted this is the only way in which demand can be met.

However, a warning has been issued by specialists carrying out a joint study at the Agroscope Reckenholz-Tanikon Research Station and the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture, both in Switzerland, regarding the use of nanotechnology to increase farm production.

They suggested that it is important that effective risk management is carried out, particularly as the science is in its early stages as nanosubstances included in fertilizer and plant protection products could pose a threat to microorganisms in soil that are important to plant health and natural ecosystems.

"With nanotechnology-related markets growing at an enormous speed, there is an urgent need to regulate products with nano content," they stated.

Another study is being carried out by physicists from the University of Florida into a new nanotechnology-based light that could reduce energy costs and encourage photosynthesis in indoor, hydroponic agriculture.

The team has highlighted the damage the weather can cause to crops, adding: "Greenhouse farming and urban agriculture are being looked at as a more efficient and cost effective way to grow produce."

The nanophosphor-based electroluminesence lighting device adjusts wavelengths of light to provide optimum growing conditions for plants.

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