Nanoparticles that are used to deliver drugs in medical settings could also help treat nutrient deficiencies in agricultural crops, according to a study in Scientific Reports.
Nanoparticles called liposomes can be filled with drugs or other substances, which they carry across biological barriers to target tissues. They have been shown to be effective in delivering drugs to treat diseases such as cancer.
Avi Schroeder and colleagues tested the ability of nanoparticles to deliver nutrients to seedlings and fully grown cherry tomato plants. The authors sprayed plants showing magnesium and iron deficiencies with nanoparticles that had been loaded with both elements, or with commercial magnesium and iron not included in nanoparticles. Plants treated with nanoparticles overcame acute nutrient deficiency that wasn’t treatable using standard agricultural nutrients; 14 days after application, nutrient deficient plants treated with nanoparticles recovered, whereas plants treated with standard agricultural nutrients did not.
The authors also showed that the nanoparticles spread throughout the leaves and roots of treated plants before they were taken up by plant cells, where they released their nutrient cargo. The findings suggest that expanding the use of nanotechnology to agricultural settings shows promise in increasing crop yields.