Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Use Nanoparticles to Boost Crop Growth with Reduced Fertilizer

May 4, 2016

A team of engineers from Washington University in St. Louis has found a sustainable way to boost the growth of a protein-rich bean by improving the way it absorbs much-needed nutrients.

Ramesh Raliya and Pratim Biswas from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, discovered a way to reduce the use of fertilizer made from rock phosphorus and still see improvements in the growth of food crops by using zinc oxide nanoparticles. According to Raliya, the world's phosphorous supply could be depleted in about 80 years. Together with his research collaborators, Raliya created zinc oxide nanoparticles from a fungus around the plant's root that helps the plant mobilize and take up the nutrients in the soil. When they applied zinc nanoparticles to the leaves of the mung bean plant, it increased phosphorous uptake by nearly 11 percent and the activity of the three enzymes by 84 percent to 108 percent. That leads to a lesser need to add phosphorus to the soil, Raliya said.

"When the enzyme activity increases, you don't need to apply the external phosphorus, because it's already in the soil, but not in an available form for the plant to uptake," Raliya said. "When we apply these nanoparticles, it mobilizes the complex form of phosphorus to an available form."

For more details, read the news release.