Nanotechnology – designing ultra-small particles – is now emerging as a promising way to promote plant growth and development. This idea is part of the evolving science of precision agriculture, in which farmers use technology to efficiently use water, fertilizer and other inputs. Precision farming makes agriculture more sustainable and environmentally benign because it reduces waste and maximize productivity. To meet the food demand of the growing global population, farmers use more nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer. However, a major portion of fertilizer applied this way gets lost to the environment and pollutes other ecosystems. For example, excess nitrogen leaches out in form of greenhouse gasses and phosphorus fertilizers become “fixed” in soil: they form chemical bonds with other elements and become unavailable for plants to take up through their roots. Eventually rain washes the nitrogen and phosphorus compounds into rivers, lakes and the sea, where it can causes eutrophication. Some crops can be grown under artificial conditions using hydroponic techniques, but the cost (in energy and dollar) is approximately 10 times that of conventional agriculture. Such systems are neither affordable nor sustainable for the future at global scale. Therefore, it is an urgent requirement to develop sustainable strategies that results in more nutritious and enhanced crop production by minimizing the use of resources and fertilizers. In contrast to conventional fertilizer use, which involves many tons of inputs, nanotechnology focuses on use of smaller quantities that are more efficiently used. Nanoscale particles (between 1 and 100 nanometers in at least one dimension) have unique physical, chemical and structural features, which can be controlled to obtain desired functionalities. However, environmental health and safety aspects should also be considered, and it is critical to determine the toxicity/biocompatibility. In this presentation, I will discuss how better we can use nanotechnology to produce enough nutritious food for growing world population while ensuring soil and environmental health challenges to realize sustainable and precision agriculture.
Dr. Ramesh Raliya is a Research Scientist at Department of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, USA. Prior to this, he was Research Associate at National Agriculture Innovation Project of Nanotechnology at Indian Council of Agriculture Research, Government of India. At Washington University, Dr. Raliya associated with Nano Research Facility of School of Engineering & Applied Science, and Center for Multiple Myeloma Nanotherapy of Washington University School of Medicine. Dr. Raliya’s research is in the area of nanoparticle technology and having expertise in advanced functional nanomaterial synthesis using biological, chemical and aerosol route, and their application in biomedical, plant science, toxicity, energy and environmental technologies. He has published more than 40 peer reviewed publications, and holds five patents for his nano-biointerface research. He is a co-founder of BIRANO LLC, an start-up company to translate his research work for real world applications. Dr. Raliya recently won Leadership in Entrepreneurial Acceleration Program (LEAP) Inventor Challenge Award by the Washington University and Global Biotechnology Award by the Institute of Chemical Engineers, UK for his research on nanofertilizer. Dr. Raliya has interdisciplinary academic and research background. He earned his bachelor degree in Bioscience and Masters in Biotechnology from Jai Narain Vyas University, Jodhpur. He earned his Ph.D. in 2012 from the Central Arid Zone Research Institute, India.