Nanotechnology in agri-food production: an overview
Bhupinder Singh Sekhon
Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, PCTE Group of Institutes, Ludhiana, India
Abstract: Nanotechnology is one of the most important tools in modern agriculture, and agri-food nanotechnology is anticipated to become a driving economic force in the near future. Agri-food themes focus on sustainability and protection of agriculturally produced foods, including crops for human consumption and animal feeding. Nanotechnology provides new agrochemical agents and new delivery mechanisms to improve crop productivity, and it promises to reduce pesticide use. Nanotechnology can boost agricultural production, and its applications include: 1) nanoformulations of agrochemicals for applying pesticides and fertilizers for crop improvement; 2) the application of nanosensors/nanobiosensors in crop protection for the identification of diseases and residues of agrochemicals; 3) nanodevices for the genetic manipulation of plants; 4) plant disease diagnostics; 5) animal health, animal breeding, poultry production; and 6) postharvest management. Precision farming techniques could be used to further improve crop yields but not damage soil and water, reduce nitrogen loss due to leaching and emissions, as well as enhance nutrients long-term incorporation by soil microorganisms. Nanotechnology uses include nanoparticle-mediated gene or DNA transfer in plants for the development of insect-resistant varieties, food processing and storage, nanofeed additives, and increased product shelf life. Nanotechnology promises to accelerate the development of biomass-to-fuels production technologies. Experts feel that the potential benefits of nanotechnology for agriculture, food, fisheries, and aquaculture need to be balanced against concerns for the soil, water, and environment and the occupational health of workers. Raising awareness of nanotechnology in the agri-food sector, including feed and food ingredients, intelligent packaging and quick-detection systems, is one of the keys to influencing consumer acceptance. On the basis of only a handful of toxicological studies, concerns have arisen regarding the safety of nanomaterials, and researchers and companies will need to prove that these nanotechnologies do not have more of a negative impact on the environment.
Keywords: agriculture, food, nanotechnology, nanoparticle, nanopesticides, nanosensors, smart delivery systems