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Nano-enabled strategies to enhance crop nutrition and protection


Various nano-enabled strategies are proposed to improve crop production and meet the growing global demands for food, feed and fuel while practising sustainable agriculture. After providing a brief overview of the challenges faced in the sector of crop nutrition and protection, this Review presents the possible applications of nanotechnology in this area. We also consider performance data from patents and unpublished sources so as to define the scope of what can be realistically achieved. In addition to being an industry with a narrow profit margin, agricultural businesses have inherent constraints that must be carefully considered and that include existing (or future) regulations, as well as public perception and acceptance. Directions are also identified to guide future research and establish objectives that promote the responsible and sustainable development of nanotechnology in the agri-business sector.

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M.K. was partially supported by the Czech Science Foundation (GAČR 18-19324S). N.T. was supported by the Canada Research Chairs program. J.C.W. acknowledges support from USDA-NIFA-AFRI 2016-67021-24985. Synthesis of Cu-based nanoparticles was supported by US National Science Foundation Centers for Chemical Innovation Program CHE-1503408, the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology. The authors thank Vive Crop Protection Inc. for sharing and discussing data, and S. Chahal for his support with graphic preparation.

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Correspondence to Melanie Kah or Jason C. White.

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Journal peer review information: Nature Nanotechnology thanks Hongda Chen and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Fig. 1: Key figures for the top four crops produced globally: sugar cane, maize, rice and wheat.
Fig. 2: Key data capturing the current context of crop production.
Fig. 3: Number of patents returned from a Google Patents search.
Fig. 4: Field-scale performance of different nano-agrochemicals relative to non-nano formulations.