Nanotechnology in Crop Protection: A Review


Shaikh Habeeba. S

Department of Pharmacognosy, Matoshri Institute of Pharmacy, Dhanore, Yeola, Maharashtra, India.

*Corresponding Author E-mail:



The establishment and development of new pathogenic races is a constant problem, because chemical pest control is both expensive and ineffectual. Nanomaterials have lately been proposed as a potential alternative for reducing plant diseases and crop protection. Agricultural methods usually include the systematic administration of a variety of active chemicals at varied dosages and frequency, resulting in a variety of selective regimes. Crop protection is critical in the production of food all over the world. Nanotechnologies are being employed more and more to maintain traditional crops and to develop novel crops with superior qualities. Pollen magnetofection and gene nanocarriers are two nanobiotechnologies that are now being used to improve pest, weed, and disease management, as well as agricultural genetic modification. Traditional crop pest, weed, and disease management has been greatly enhanced thanks to a better understanding of the synthesis of nanomaterials with extraordinary capabilities. Plant germination, growth, and crop protection have all been proved to benefit from nanoparticles in agriculture. The enhanced specific surface area of nanomaterials benefits fertilisers and insecticides. Nanomaterials have also been developed for a variety of applications such as medical, medication delivery, electronics, fuel cells, solar cells, food, space, and so on. This chapter outlines recent attempts the use of nanotechnologies in agriculture in novel ways that could assist meet rising food demand while also ensuring environmental sustainability.


KEYWORDS: Nanotechnology, crop protection, crop production, nanomaterial’s, pesticide, Nano fertilizers, nanoagrochemical, plant disease management, application.




Nanotechnology get a lot of attention in recent years because of its numerous uses in fields like medicine, pharmaceuticals, catalysis, energy, and materials. Nanoparticles having a small size but a huge surface area (1–100 nm) could be used in medicine, industry and in agriculture. Scientists have made substantial efforts to synthesise nanoparticles using a variety of methods, including physical, chemical, and biological approaches1. These methods have many disadvantages due to the difficulty of scale-up of the process, separation and purification of nanoparticles from the micro-emulsion (oil, surfactant, co-surfactant and aqueous phase) and consuming large amount of surfactants2. Green methods for synthesizing nanoparticles with plant extracts are advantageous as it is simple, convenient, eco-friendly and require less reaction time. Nanomaterials prepared by eco-friendly and green methods could increase agriculture potential for improving the fertilization process, plant growth regulators and pesticides3. In addition, they minimize the amount of harmful chemicals that pollutes the environment. Hence, this technology helps in reducing the environmental pollutants. The applications of nanomaterials in agriculture aim to reduce spraying of plant protection products and to increase plant yields. Nanotechnology means like nanocapsules, and nanoparticles are examples of uses for the detection and treatment of diseases4.  Nanotechnology derived devices are also explored in the field of plant breeding and genetic transformation. The potential of nanotechnology in agriculture is large, but a few issues are still to be addressed as the risk assessment. This review highlights the application of nanotechnology which may ensure the sustainability of agriculture and environment.


Defining nanotechnology in agriculture:

The US Environmental Protection Agency has defined nanotechnology as the science of understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1–100nm, where unique physical properties make novel applications possible5. This definition is somewhat inflexible when it comes to size dimensions. Materials could have received a greater emphasis on their problem-solving abilities. The particles referred to in this definition have “particulate between 10 and 1,000 nm in size dimensions that are simultaneously colloidal particulate”6,7.



The agriculture or farming has emerged in recent years, meaning the development of wireless networking and miniaturization of the sensors for monitoring, assessing, and controlling agricultural practices. More specifically, it is related to the site-specific crop management with a wide array of pre- and post-production aspects of agriculture, ranging from horticultural crops to field crops8. Recent advancements in tissue engineering and engineered nanomaterials-based targeted delivery of CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)/Cas (CRISPR-associated protein) mRNA, and sgRNA for the genetic modification (GM) of crops is a noteworthy scientific achievement9,10. Further, nanotechnology provides excellent solutions for an increasing number of environmental challenges. For example, the development of nanosensors has extensive prospects for the observation of environmental stress and enhancing the combating potentials of plants against diseases11,12. Therefore, such continuous improvements in nanotechnology with special preference on the identification of problems and development of collaborative approaches for sustainable agricultural growth has remarkable potential to provide broad social and equitable benefits.


Role of Nanomaterials in Seed Germination, Crop Growth and Quality Enrichment:

Nanoscience is a new platform of scientific innovation that involves the development of approaches to a range of inexpensive nanotech applications for enhanced seed germination, plant growth, development and acclimation to environments. The germination of seeds is a sensitive phase in the life cycle of plant, which facilitates seedling development, survival and population dynamics. However, seed germination is largely affected by different parameters including environmental factors, genetic trait, moisture availability and soil fertility13.  In this concern, an extensive number of studies have shown that the application of nanomaterials has positive effects on germination as well as plant growth and development. For example, the application of multiwall carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) positively influences seed germination of different crop species including tomato, corn, soybean, barley, wheat, maize, peanut and garlic.14,15. Similarly, nano SiO2, TiO2 and Zeolite application positively stimulate seed germination in crop plants16,17 also found that Fe/SiO2 nanomaterials have significant potential to improve seed germination in barley and maize. Despite a significant body of research on nanomaterials-induced positive effects on germination, the underlying mechanisms how nanomaterials could stimulate germination still remain unclear. A few studies have demonstrated that nanomaterials have the potential to penetrate the seed coat and enhance the ability of absorption and utilization of water, which stimulates enzymatic system and ultimately improves germination and seedling growth.


Application of nanotechnology in Agriculture:

Nanotechnology in pesticides and fertilizers:

These days, sustainable agriculture is needed. It may be understood to present a good approach of ecosystem for long run. Practices that can cause long-term damage to soil include excessive tilling of the soil which leads to erosion and irrigation without needed drainage. This will lead to salinization. This is to satisfy human being food, animal feed and fiber needs. Long-term experiments are required to show the effect of different practices on soil properties which are essential to sustainability and to provide important data on this objective. In the United States, a federal agency, the development of nano-chemicals has appeared as promising agents for the plant growth and pest control. The fertilizers are required in plants growth. Nanomaterials act as fertilizers might have the properties such as crop improvement and with less eco-toxicity. Plants can give an important way for their bioaccumulation into the food chain. The recent developments in agriculture cover the applications of NPs for more effective and safe use of chemicals for plants. The effects of different NPs on plant growth and phytotoxicity were reported by several workers including magnetite (Fe3O4) nanoparticles and plant growth18, alumina, zinc, and zinc oxide on seed germination and root growth of five higher plant species; radish, rape, lettuce, corn, and cucumber, silver nanoparticles and seedling growth in wheat, sulfur nanoparticles on tomato19, zinc oxide in mungbean, nanoparticles of AlO, CuO, FeO, MnO, NiO, and ZnO20. Silver nanoparticles can stimulate wheat growth and yield. Soil applied 25ppm SNPs had highly favorable growth promoting effects on wheat growth and yield.


Control of plant pests:

Fusarium wilt is a destructive disease of tomato and lettuce in several countries due to its severe production loss, prolonged survival of fungus in soil and generation of resistant races. The disease can be reduced to some extent with the use of resistant cultivars and chemicals. However, the occurrence and development of new pathogenic races is a continuing problem, and the use of chemicals is expensive and not always effective. In recent years, the use of nanomaterials has been considered as an alternative solution to control plant pathogens21.


Nanotechnology based detection of plant diseases:

Several plant species have been designated as hyper-accumulators, meaning that they have a high capacity to concentrate trace metals and then use those NPs22. Silver, silica, gold, zinc, and copper are frequently used metallic nanoparticles as antimicrobial agents. Silver nanoparticles were shown to be antimicrobial in both ionic and nano forms, and when tested and studied, the particles were shown to be capable of killing plant pathogens 23. Silver has a strong antifungal and antimicrobial mode of action against bacterial and fungal pathogens24,25,26. Fungicides’ hydroxyl radicals-like degradation of fungal and bacterial cell material is achievable with copper NPs27,28. Since the size of these nanoscale copper particles helped control bacterial blight of rice and mung bean leaf spot disease, they were considered useful29.


Nanosensors Used to Monitor Living Plants:

Agricultural applications of nanosensors involve nutrient management, growth monitoring, and pest and disease assessment, detection of soil conditions, food production and plant hormone detection30. Nanosensors constitute a new platform for monitoring plant growth and development, which achieves nondestructive and accurate monitoring, and can be applied to individual plants in real time31. Common nanosensor detection techniques include fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS), corona-phase molecular recognition and common nanosensors themselves include electrochemical nanosensors and piezoelectric nanosensors. The nanosensors used in plant monitoring include several aspects. Firstly, physiological or environmental parameters of plants are monitored by nanosensors. These data are delivered to electronic equipment, including a smartphone or laptop, immediately. Secondly, computer system analyzes data and provides instructions. Finally, the cultivation system or administrators adjust environment conditions and take measures according to instructions32,33,34,35,36.


Nanoparticles Utilization in Plants:

Silicon Dioxide Nanoparticles:

It has been noted that a very low concentrations of silicon dioxide nanoparticles improved germination in some plants like tomato, maize etc. Along with the improvement of germination percentages, these nanoparticles also enhanced root length, root diameter and the number of lateral roots in the seedlings37.


Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles:

Many studies suggest that these nanoparticles increase the rate of development and growth in the plants like soybean, peanut, wheat etc.38,39.


Carbon Nanotubes:

These nanoparticles have distinct mechanical, thermal, electrical and chemical properties. They can penetrate easily in the cell membrane and cell wall of the plant cell making the process of nanoparticles relatively easier. Increased germination rates by using carbon nanotubes has been observed in Brassica juncea, rice, tomato and cotton40. It is being observed that carbon nanotubes also contributes to the flowering, fruit yield, and biomass and medicinal attributes of some plants.


Gold Nanoparticles:

Relatively few studies have been performed to analyses the effects of gold nanoparticles in plants. However, these studies indicate that these nanoparticles significantly improve the seed germination rates in lettuce, cucumber, Brassica juncea, Boswellia ovalifoliolata and Gloriosa superba41.


Silver Nanoparticles:

A great research work has been documented on the effects of silver nanoparticles in microbial and animal cells. However, research work on plants is limited in this case. Biologically synthesized silver nanoparticles increase the seed germination and growth of Boswellia ovaliofoliolata trees44, along with the enhancement of some biochemical attributes and plant growth profile (PGP) of maize, common bean and Brassica juncea42,43.


Titanium Dioxide Nanoparticles:

These nanoparticles have been observed to increase the seed germination and length of radicle and plumule in canola43.


Nanotechnology in plant disease management:

Now a day’s use of chemicals such as pesticides, fungicides and herbicides is the fastest and cheapest way to control pests and diseases. Indiscriminate use of pesticides has caused many problems such as: adverse effects on human health and on pollinating insects and domestic animals, and entering this material directly or indirectly in ecosystems. Intelligent use of chemicals on the nano scale can be an appropriate solution for this problem. These materials are used as carriers in nano scale has self-regulation, this means that the medication on the necessary amount only be delivered into plant tissue. Nanoparticles for liberation of active ingredients or drug molecules will be at its helm in near future for therapy of all pathological sufferings of crop plants. There are myriad of nano materials including polymeric nanoparticles, iron oxide nanoparticles and gold nanoparticles which can be easily synthesized and exploited as pesticide, fertilizer or drug delivery piggybacks44,45 used sulfur nanoparticles (SNPs) as a green nanopesticide on Fusarium solani and Venturia inaequalis phytopathogens. It has been found that small sized particles of SNP (35nm) are very effective in prevention of the fungal growth and can be useful for the protection of important crops such as tomato, potato, apple, grape etc., from different diseases, mainly for organic farming because of antimicrobial property of silver. Nano-based viral diagnostics, including multiplexed diagnostic kit development, have taken momentum in order to detect the exact strain of virus or other pathogens and stage of application of some therapeutic to stop the disease46. Investigated the insecticidal activity of Ag nanoparticles against the A. nerii. Nanoparticles of Ag and Ag-Zn were synthesized through a solvothermal method, and using them, insecticidal solutions of different concentrations were prepared and tested on A. nerii. For comparison purposes, imidacloprid was also used as a conventional insecticide. The result showed that Ag nanoparticles can be used as a valuable tool in pest management programs of A. nerii. Additionally, the study showed that Imidacloprid at 1μL mL-1 and nanoparticles at 700mg mL-1 had the highest insect mortality effect.


Nanotechnology in food industry:

Oxygen is a problematic factor in food packaging, as it can cause food spoilage and discoloration. Nanoparticles have been developed a new plastic that preventing the penetration of oxygen as a barrier. In other words, the oxygen for entry into package should during longer route, and hence with the long route for oxygen molecules, food can be spoiled later. Polymer-silicate nano composites have also been reported to have improved gas barrier properties, mechanical strength, and thermal stability. Recently, nano-coatings are produced for fruit that covering the fruits completely, and prevent of fruit weight loss and shrinkage47. Developing smart packaging to optimize product shelf-life has been the goal of many companies. Such packaging systems would be able to repair small holes/tears, respond to environmental conditions (e.g. Temperature and moisture changes), and alert the customer if the food is contaminated. Nanotechnology can provide solutions for these, for example modifying the permeation behavior of foils, increasing barrier properties (mechanical, thermal, chemical, and microbial), improving mechanical and heat-resistance properties, developing active antimicrobial and antifungal surfaces, and sensing as well as signaling microbiological and biochemical changes48. In particular, silver nanoparticles have been shown to be a promising antimicrobial material. The most effect of controlling the fungus by nanoparticles is in < 24hr. In addition, the different concentrations of silver nanoparticles controlled A. Flatus49. Therefore, the concentration of nanoparticles is effective for controlling the fungi into foodstuffs packaging.



Nanotechnology is a newly emerging, but highly expanding technology in many fields related to human activities and benefits worldwide. Its fascinating phenomena have been witnessed through several research findings that the nanoparticles and nanostructure improve various properties due to small size, larger surface area, and highly catalytic nature. Nanotechnology is crucial in achieving food security, especially in the agriculture sector. It can improve crop production by effective microbial, pest, and weed control with high economic value, security, and safety.



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Received on 07.05.2022       Modified on 24.05.2022

Accepted on 06.06.2022      ©A&V Publications All right reserved

Research J. Science and Tech. 2022; 14(3):177-182.

DOI: 10.52711/2349-2988.2022.00029