Nanotechnology has the potential to make an impact on several agricultural and environmental challenges, such as urbanization, energy and resource constraints, sustainable use of resources, run-off and accumulation of pesticides and fertilizers. With a constantly growing population, the demand for higher agricultural yields and more effective strategies to optimize agricultural practices are needed, therefore the use of nano-scale materials in agricultural science will play a vital role. Nanotechnology, in fact, may have a substantial impact on sustainable agriculture and precision farming development. This ultimately aims to maximize agriculture output (i.e., crop yields), while minimizing input (i.e., fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides) through monitoring environmental variables and applying targeted action. Growing interest has been focused on nano-enhanced solutions due to their potential to improve seed germination, growth and plant protection through the controlled release of agrochemicals, with the consequent reduction in the amounts of chemical products applied and the minimization of nutrient losses in fertilization. Additionally, nanotechnology in agriculture may provide innovative solutions to protect and remediate water and soils, thus boosting global food production and quality in an eco-friendly manner. Emerging uses of nanotechnology in agriculture will continue to raise questions and express concern over possible human and environmental health implications. The deliberate introduction of nano-sized materials within agricultural activities, in fact, could result in unintended health outcomes. In this scenario, environmental and human exposure due to nanomaterial residues in soil and crops are expected to increase with exposure routes including possible bioaccumulation in the environment and food chain. Therefore, the anticipated innovative and improved activities of nano-enhanced applications may result in both new benefits and new hazards to human and environmental health. In this perspective, the purpose of achieving sustainable agriculture overlaps the need for the development of a “green nanotechnology”, a conceptual approach to balance the benefits provided by nano-products in solving environmental challenges with the assessment and management of environmental, health, and safety risks potentially posed by nano-scale materials.

Aqief Afzal