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Crop Biotech Update

Nanoagriculture: Carbon Tubes Enhance Seedling Germination and Plant Growth

October 23, 2009

A great deal of research has been made in recent years on the potential of using nanoscale particles for different biological and medical applications. For instance, a team of researchers successfully developed 'carbon nanobombs', which can be used to blow up aberrant cancer cells. Research is also underway to use nanoparticles in agriculture, to improve the productivity of plants for food, fuel, and other uses.

Mariya Khodakovskaya, Alexandru Biris and their colleagues at the University of Arkansas have reported the first evidence that carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can penetrate the hard outer coating of seeds with beneficial effects. CNTs, with a diameter 1/50,000th the width of a human hair, were found by the scientists to affect germination and growth rates of tomato seeds. Nanotube-exposed seeds sprouted up to two times faster than control seeds and the seedlings weighed more than twice as much as the untreated plants. The activated process of water uptake could be responsible for the significantly faster germination rates and higher biomass production for the plants that were exposed to CNTs, the researchers state.

The growth-enhancing effect of CNTs may prove to be a boon for biomass production for plant-based biofuels and other agricultural products.

The paper published by ACS Nano is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/nn900887m