Nanotechnology has the potential to play a critical role in global food production, food security, and food safety. The applications of nanotechnology in agriculture include fertilizers to increase plant growth and yield, pesticides for pest and disease management, and sensors for monitoring soil quality and plant health. Over the past decade, a number of patents and products incorporating nanomaterials into agricultural practices (e.g., nanopesticides, nanofertilizers, and nanosensors) have been developed. The collective goal of all of these approaches is to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of agricultural practices by requiring less input and generating less waste than conventional products and approaches. This review evaluates the current literature on the use of nanoscale nutrients (metals, metal oxides, carbon) to suppress crop disease and subsequently enhance growth and yield. Notably, this enhanced yield may not only be directly linked to the reduced presence of pathogenic organisms, but also to the potential nutritional value of the nanoparticles themselves, especially for the essential micronutrients necessary for host defense. We also posit that these positive effects are likely a result of the greater availability of the nutrients in the “nano” form. Last, we offer comments on the current regulatory perspective for such applications. © 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.
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