The twentieth century’s most important physicist after Albert Einstein is almost certainly Richard Feynman. After quantum electrodynamics (QED) is the relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics, this man surprised everyone by giving an idea that now it’s time to play with atoms and molecules , giving a new possibility ,this man was Richard Feynman, at the meeting at the California Institute of Technology in 29 December 1959. This talk is known under the title there’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.
He spoke about the possibility of synthesis of new substances through the direct manipulation of atoms and molecules. Although this idea sounded like a cock and bull story, it wasn’t possible until 1981, with the development of the scanning tunnelling microscope that could “see” individual atoms, that modern nanotechnology began and Physicist Richard Feynman, celled the father of nanotechnology.
In order to understand the unusual world of nanotechnology, we need to get an idea of the units of measure involved. A centimetre is one-hundredth of a meter, a millimetre is one-thousandth of a meter, and a micrometer is one-millionth of a meter, but all of these are still huge compared to the nanoscale.
A nanometre (nm) is one-billionth of a meter, smaller than the wavelength of visible light and a hundred-thousandth the width of a human hair and this term was coined in 1974 by Norio Taniguichi of Tokyo Science University to describe semiconductor processes such as thin-film deposition that deal with control on the order of nanometres. His definition still stands as the basic statement today:
“Nano-technology mainly consists of the processing of separation, consolidation, and deformation of materials by one atom or one molecule.”
Nano Technology and Sustainable Agriculture
No doubt that the sustainable growth of agriculture totally depends on the new and innovative techniques like nanotechnology. The ambition of nonmaterial in agriculture is to reduce the amount of spread chemicals, minimize nutrient losses in fertilization and increased yield through pest and nutrient management.
Nanotechnology has the prospective to improve the agriculture and food industry with novel nanotools for the controlling of rapid disease diagnostic, enhancing the capacity of plants to absorb nutrients among others The significant interests of using nanotechnology in agriculture includes specific applications like nanofertilizers and nanopesticides to trail products and nutrients levels to increase the productivity without decontamination of soils, waters, and protection against several insect pest and microbial diseases.
Why Nano?? It is due to alteration in the atoms and develops a magnetic power. It can be projected that the smaller size of nonmaterial possesses larger surface area and exhibits more active. The magnetic property of polymer develops due to tellurium atoms; antimony-bismuth; and sulphur atoms.
Moreover, it has been observed that when the atoms of do pant and atoms of europium interact together, and then the entire molecules carry out the magnetic property. Thus the alter property of nanomaterials is related with more reactive in the most sectors including in biological process.
This ultimate technology possesses several unique plasmonic, electronic association and optical properties which are related with the quantum confinement effects, the alteration of the electronic energy levels may appear due to the surface area in relation to volume ratio.
In modern agriculture, sustainable production and efficiency are unimaginable without the use of agrochemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, etc. Nanomaterials not only directly catalyze degradation of waste and toxic materials but it also aids improve the efficiency of microorganisms in degradation of waste and toxic materials. Bioremediation uses living organisms to break down or remove toxins and harmful substances from agricultural soil and water. In particular, some other terms are also generally used such as bioremediation (beneficial microbes), phytoremediation (plants), and mycoremediation (fungi and mushrooms). Thus, with the bioremediation the heavy metals can be removed from soil and water environmentally and efficiently by microorganisms (Dixit et al., 2015).
Potentials of Nanotechnology.
A range of applications in areas of sensors, coatings, hybrid materials, catalysis and bio-catalysis and drug delivery are presently exploited.
Nano-encapsulation plays a vital role in the protection of environment by reducing leaching and evaporation of harmful substances. The worldwide consumption of pesticides is about two million tonnes per year; out of which 45% is used by Europe alone, 25% is consumed in the USA and 25% in the rest of the world.
Careless and haphazard pesticide usage increases pathogen and pest resistance, reduces soil biodiversity, kills useful soil microbes; causes bio magnification of pesticides, pollinator decline and destroys natural habitat of farmer friends like birds. The potential uses and benefits of nanotechnology are enormous.
These include insect pest management via formulations of nanomaterial based pesticides and insecticides, increase in agricultural productivity using nanoparticles encapsulated fertilizers for slow and sustained release of nutrients and water. Nanoparticles mediated gene or DNA transfer in plants for the development of insect pest resistant varieties and use of nanomaterial for preparation of different kinds of biosensors would be useful in remote sensing devices required for precision farming are some of the boon of this modern
Nanosensors are defined as analytical devices having at least one sensing dimension no greater than 100 nm, fabricated for monitoring physico-chemical properties in places otherwise difficult to reach. Nanotubes, nanowires, nanoparticles, or nanocrystals are often used to optimize the signal transduction deriving by sensing elements in response to exposure to biological and chemical analytes having similar size“Nanosensors help farmers in maintaining farm with precise control and report timely needs of plants.”
Thus, it will be mandatory to address research efforts to the development of nanosensors to aid decision-making in crop monitoring, accurate analysis of nutrients and pesticides in soil, or for maximizing the efficiency of water use for a smart agriculture. Nanosensors find also application in fast, sensitive, and cost-effective detection of different targets to ensure food quality, safety, freshness, authenticity, and traceability along the entire food supply chain. Surely, nanosensors represent one of the emerging technologies challenging the assessment of food quality and safety, being able to provide smart monitoring of food components.
Many intelligent packaging involve nanosensors as monitoring systems to measure physical parameters (humidity, pH, temperature, light exposure), to reveal gas mixtures (e.g., oxygen and carbon dioxide), to detect pathogens and toxins, or to control freshness (e.g., ethanol, lactic acid, acetic acid) and decomposition (e.g., putrescine, cadaverine).Crop growth and field conditions like moisture level, soil fertility, temperature, crop nutrient status, insects, plant diseases, weeds, etc. can be monitored through advancement in nanotechnology.
This real-time monitoring is done by employing networks of wireless nanosensors across cultivated fields, providing essential data for agronomic intelligence processes like optimal time of planting and harvesting the crops. More precise water delivery systems are likely to be developed in the near future. These factors critical for their development include water storage, in situ water holding capacity, water distribution near roots, water absorption efficiency of plants, encapsulated water released on demand, and interaction with field intelligence through distributed nano-sensor systems.
Nanotechnology and shelf life of agricultural and food products
Most of the agricultural commodities (fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, egg, milk and dairy products, many processed foods, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals) are either perishable or semi-perishable. Research and development in nanotechnology can help to preserve the freshness, quality and safety.
Hydro gels, nanoclays, and nanozeolites have been reported to enhance the water-holding capacity of soil), hence acting as a slow release source of water, reducing the hydric shortage periods during crop season
Agriculture which is the only provider of human’s food that should produce from transitional and final inputs with well-known technologies. Thus, it is necessary to take a modern knowledge in agriculture. In spite of being relative advantages in agriculture process, still developing countries are suffering from lack of high importance of food products.
Despite a lot of information about individual nanomaterials are available, but toxicity level of many NPs is still indefinable, thus the application of these materials is limited due to the lack of knowledge of risk assessments and effects on human health.
Development of comprehensive database and alarm system, as well as international cooperation for regulation and legislation are necessary for exploitation of this technology.
By, M. Faizan Khurram
University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Department: Centre of Agricultural Biochemistry & Biotechnology (CABB).