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Study says Nanotechnology Can Boost Crop Yield During Crises

According to a Mongabay report, nanotechnology can effectively treat seeds and roots for increased yield with minimal resources. "The idea is to prepare ourselves with future agro-productivity tools, which can be executed with minimal resources and in any sort of emergencies – be it in tough terrains, warlike situations, pandemics/epidemics, or even international trade embargoes," Himanshi Jangir, a doctoral student at IIT Kanpur's Design Program was quoted as saying.

According to a UN report, in situations like the ongoing nation-wide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, farmers find it difficult to get vital resources such as seeds, fertilisers, and field labour. Crops that are already planted are at risk due to a lack of labour. Most of the migrant workers have been forced to return home owing to quarantine measures. According to Jangir, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed scientists to design futuristic sustainable strategies that are locally viable, such as nanotechnology, for agriculture sectors. Reportedly, India had started a National Nanotechnology Mission more than a decade ago. This field has been utilized in the agriculture sector which is considered to be the backbone of the Indian economy.

Jangir with her colleagues at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, is currently working with nano iron pyrite to boost crop productivity. The team has engineered nanoparticles consisting of iron and sulfur and have a diameter 1,000 times smaller than that of a human hair. "The application of nano fertiliser is one approach to restore the sustainability of the soil. We discovered another nano approach whereby it is feasible to bolster seed and root metabolism. It is by a brief treatment of seed or root with an iron-sulfur nano-bio-stimulant, that is, nanopyrite," said Jangir. "Here we discovered that nanoparticles of iron pyrite boost the seed and root metabolism and increase the production of wheat (grain crop), chickpea (legume crop), cabbage, cauliflower, tomato (vegetable crops)," she added. According to her if the metabolic activity of the seed or roots is boosted at the very onset of their journey in the soil, the plant is capable of growing better and assimilating nutrients optimally. It eventually results in higher production and requires less fertiliser. The team has observed that wheat and chickpea production increases significantly following twelve hours of seed treatment with nano iron pyrite before sowing the seeds. The effective cost of manufacturing 500 mg of nano pyrite in laboratory conditions is Rs 26. 500 mg is adequate to treat almost 10 kg of rice seeds (dose 50 microgram/ml). Whereas, for 10 kg of rice seeds, fertiliser input (NPK) costs Rs 890. The Indian government had earlier in 2019 proposed a set of guidelines to regulate and maintain the quality and safety of the products and processes.

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