Safety of manufactured nanomaterials

Parallel Session Seven: Agricultural Nanotechnology



Nanostructure-Enhanced Electron Transfer Devices for Agricultural Applications

Guigen Zhang, Department of Bioengineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Clemson University, South Carolina,  United States

In this talk, I will discuss our pursuit of engineering bridges to link the nano world to the real world we live in.  I will present several paradigm-shifting concepts using our engineered nanostructures as novel electron transfer devices for biological and agricultural applications including food and water safety, bioconversion, environmental remediation, and bio-security.  Selected case studies along with some promising results will be highlighted.

Nanotechnology and Agriculture in India: The Second Green Revolution?

Kalpana Sastry, National Academy of Agricultural Research Management, Hyderabad, India, H. B. Rashmi, N. H. Rao, and S.M. Ilyas


It is now well recognized that the relative successes of Indian Agriculture during the 1970s and 1980s, were based on the green revolution technology model of breeding short-duration high yielding cultivars, irrigation and intensive use of fertilizers and other agro-chemicals. Central to this model were the adoption of micro or farm economics- which governed the use of inputs such as land, cultivars, labour, machinery, and chemicals balanced against profits from crop yields, and the macro economics that ensured better prices to farmers and access to inputs and markets. While the green revolution model increased yields and farm incomes substantially, it had relatively less emphasis on efficient and sustainable use of soil nutrients and water.  Agriculture in India now faces more formidable challenges of meeting growing demands of the large population for nutritionally safe foods, with limited availability of land and water resources which are increasingly threatened by environmental and climatic pressures. Addressing the emerging challenges requires increasing productivity and incomes per unit of the scarce natural resources is possible only through understanding, integrating and deploying new advancements in science and technology in agricultural production. Among the recent advancements in science, nanotechnology (NT) is fast emerging as the new science and technology platform for the next wave of development and transformation of agri-food systems (Roco, 2003; Kuzma and Verhage, 2006; Scrinis and Lyons, 2007), as well as improve the conditions of the poor (Juma, et al 2005). This enabling, and often disruptive technology base that is panindustrial as well as convergent with other emerging technologies is multifaceted in nature. While it is projected to have the potential to provide large emerging agriculture centred economies like India (Romig et al 2007), it is essential to use the well established technology platforms in the country by creating its own nanotechnology based solutions and industries in the rural sector (Planning Commission, 2007).
Keeping this in view, Government of India initiated a Nano Science and Technology Mission in the country and continues to strengthen it (DST, 2009). Through the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India has also launched the Nanotechnology Initiative in Agriculture and allied sectors. It is necessary to realise that such investments not only accelerate such researches in agriculture sector, but also help to ensure that the large National Agricultural Research System in India stays globally competitive. The need to maintain technological parity with global competitors is indeed a critical strategic issue for the agricultural and rural sectors. Emerging technologies can create competitive advantage and commercial success for farmers and agricultural industries as well as benefit rural communities. But it is essential that nanotechnology be extended across the entire agricultural value chain to increase agricultural productivities, product quality, consumer acceptance and resource use efficiencies (Kalpana Sastry et al 2007). Consequently, this will help reduce farm costs, raise the value of production and increase farm incomes. It will also lead to conserving and enhancing the quality of the natural resource base in agricultural production systems.
For all this to happen, a more coherent systems approach is required for planning nanotechnology development and implementation across the agricultural supply chain. Early assessments of where such innovation can contribute towards a enhanced competitive advantage. Equally important, is to identify the commercial partners who can adopt and benefit from new technologies, and assist with their implementation in the large rural sector of India.
In this paper, firstly, a sufficiently general framework and methodology that can also be extended to other emerging technologies is presented for nanotechnology applications across the agricultural value chain. The framework is based on a specially designed database that allows mapping research themes in nanotechnology to specific sectors in the agricultural value chain and enables a rational assessment of the potential applications of nanotechnology in the Indian agri-food sector, identifying and prioritizing research needs across the agricultural value chain, and assessing the societal implications of this emerging technology. This is necessary as the key purpose is also to anticipate environmental and societal impacts so that necessary regulatory mechanisms to ensure that some of the difficulties encountered in introducing new technologies in agriculture (as for GM crops) can be anticipated and avoided or overcome. Several studies  (NSF, 2001; Royal Netherlands Academy of Art and Sciences, 2004), have pointed out that this can be done in the case of nanotechnology by informing the public about scientific and technological developments; anticipating environmental and health impacts early through research, and involving the major stakeholders in discussions of the pros and cons of nanotechnology. Therefore, this process based framework and methodology for a systematic assessment of the potential for application of nanotechnology across the various links in the agricultural value chain can be useful towards   developing a roadmap for integrating nanotechnology into agri-food systems research in India, and help prioritize research investments for relevance, global competitiveness and quick returns. These need to be identified early and actively pursued in national developmental plans. As an illustration, the potential of biosynthetic pathways for nanoparticle production processes and the applications for sustainable agriculture systems in Indian agriculture is explained as a case.


DST (2009). Nanomission. Department of Science and Technology. At:

Juma, C., and Yee-Cheong, L. (2005) Innovation: Applying Knowledge and Development. Report of the United Nations Millennium Project Task Force on Science, Technology and Innovation, Earthscan, London. 69.

Kalpana Sastry, R., Rao, N.H., Cahoon, R.  and Tucker, T. (2007) Can Nanotechnology Provide the Innovations for a Second Green Revolution in Indian Agriculture? Paper presented in NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Grantees Conference, Dec 3-6, 2007. At


Kuzma, J. and Verhage, P. (2006) Nanotechnology in Agriculture and Food Production: Anticipated Applications. Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies and the Consortium on Law, Values and Health and Life Sciences. Centre for Science, Technology and Public Policy (CSTPP). September 2006. At:

NSF (2001). Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. Report of a workshop run by the National Science Foundation, 28-29 September 2000. Roco, M. C. & Bainbridge, W. S. (eds.). Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston.

Planning Commission (2007).Agriculture Strategy for Eleventh Plan: Some critical issues. Government of India. Pages 1- 18.

Roco, M. C. (2003). Broader societal issues of nanotechnology. J. Nanopart. Res. 5(3-4), 181-189.

Romig Jr. A.D., Baker, A.B., Johannes,J., Zipperian,T., Eijkel, K., Kirchhoff, B., Mani, H.S.,  Rao, C.N.R. and Walsh, S.(2007). An introduction to nanotechnology policy: Opportunities and constraints for emerging and established economies. Technol. Forecast. Soc. Change, 74(9):1634-1642.

Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2004). How big can small actual be? Study Group on the Consequences of Nanotechnology. Pages 1-41 . At:

Scrinis, G. and Lyons, K. (2007). The emerging nano-corporate paradigm: nanotechnology and the transformation of nature, food and agri-food systems. International Journal of Sociology of Food and Agriculture, 15(2), 22-44.

Nanosensor Arrays for Real-Time Monitoring of Agricultural Pollutants

Ashok Mulchandani, Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Riverside,  United States, and Nosang V. Myung


Emissions from animal and crop agriculture have recently received greater attention as a pressing environmental and public health issue. These agriculture byproducts include reactive nitrogen such as ammonia and nitrogen oxides, odor emissions such as organic acids, gaseous sulfur compounds like hydrogen sulfide and particulate materials. Many different crop species and livestock are grown in the United States in widely different geographic areas, climatic conditions, and management practices. Moreover, uncertainties associated with agricultural pollutant emissions arise from 1) limited data availability, 2) inaccurate estimates due to large temporal and spatial variability, 3) diverse characteristics of pollutant emissions from highly dispersed sources, and 4) limited understanding of emission of volatile organic compounds. There is therefore a great need to develop portable, low-cost, and low-power wireless sensor networks to real-time monitor spatial and temporal variations of multiple agricultural pollutants, to better characterize the agricultural environment and assist producers in preventing or mitigating air emission.
In this presentation, we will present our recent results on development of nanosensors based on using electrochemically functionalized single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) with either metal nanoparticles or metal oxide nanoparticles, and metal oxide nanowires and nanotubes for gases such as ammonia, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide and volatile organics.  The methods allow creation of high-density individually addressable nanosensor array that has potential application in monitoring agricultural pollutants for the assessment of impacts of these pollutants on biological and ecological health and in increase of crop productivity and reducing land burden.

Agricultural Policy Implications of Nanotechnology

Steve Froggett, Scientific Advisor, Office of Scientific and Technical Affairs of the Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

During this talk, I plan to discuss potential nanotech applications and products for use in production agriculture which will benefit the environment. Agriculture in the 21st century needs to provide for a larger global population, on less land, under changing climatic conditions and will be faced with increased abiotic stresses. Nanotechnology innovations under development will advance agricultural efficiency and precision, enabling a shift to more sustainable food production. Some of these innovations include: more efficient and safer pesticides and fertilizers and field sensor systems which allow the minimal use and targeted application of pesticides, fertilizer and water inputs.

Nanotechnology And Water Purification in Brazil

Victor Bertucci Neto, Embrapa, Agricultural Instrumentation Centre, São Carlos, São Paulo State, Brazil

Nanotechnology is a broad area of research which is having a huge amount of investment in the last years around the world due to its great potential of technological applications and also due to the great improvement that can be promoted on the performance of several types of products and processes in several areas. One of them is Agriculture and Embrapa (a Brazilian Public Institution for Research in Agriculture) is leading most of the researches related to these themes in the country. As far as nanotechnology is concerned, the Brazilian government started a so called Nanotechnology Initiative in 2001, in which Embrapa was particularly involved through its Agricultural Instrumentation Research Unity. Several meetings and conferences were done leading to the establishment of national networks on this field. The interdisciplinary characteristic of these works results in new applications such as nanostructured materials for development of Nanosensors that sense from different mineral waters to blended sample of coffee. Other applications include toxin detection in fresh water in the presence of toxic cyanobacteria, and water decontamination.


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