An opinion piece in Nanotoday titled ‘Agricultural Nanotechnologies: What are the current possibilities?” looked at what nanotech products have been developed and tested successfully at either small scale or at the research and development stage and questioned why we aren’t seeing more nanotech being applied to our field of endeavour.
The list of successful applications gives a taste of what can be done with the smallest of technologies; nanocapsules and the like delivering specific nutrients or insecticides/pesticides to specific sites on or near the crops, improving soils by assisting the retention of agrochemicals and nanosensors measuring chemical information with high sensitivity are all technologies that can improve production rates and reduce environmental impacts.
Areas of impact of nanotechnology on crops. Image taken from article.
But despite the possibilities, there is a distinct lack of progress in application. The authors of the article cited ‘industry experts’ as to why this is so, with reasons including concerns about public opinion, regulatory issues and the need for large-scale application to justify the initial investment.
The large investment needed in developing such technologies is a similar barrier to entry in pharmaceuticals and public perception is a problem in transgenic technologies. Perhaps we need a greater drive for advances and financial support from government bodies to really push transparent, accessible research in this field. Given the range of expected effects of climate change and increasing population will have on the food supply, surely this is an area ripe for growth.