Airdate: Jan 13, 2020
Scientist: Greg Lowry
Currently only a fraction of the nutrients and pesticides applied to crops are actually benefiting the plants.
Nano-Agriculture Smart SpraysFor years, scientists have been studying whether nanoparticles are safe for the environment. By and large, they've found the human health impacts and risks of engineered nanoparticles are fairly low. Lately they've been trying to find ways to benefit from nanotechnology. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Lowry: We use nanotechnology today to make agriculture more sustainable, more resilient and more efficient. Greg Lowry is a Professor of civil and evironmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.Lowry: Currently less than 50% of the nitrogen applied to crops is actually used or the crops and inputs like phosphorus and pesticides, which are important for agricultural productivity, less than 5% of those are actually used by the crops. The rest of this runs off into receiving waters, rivers, etcetera, and it leads to environmental problems. Things like algal blooms, or if you've heard of the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. And what nanotechnology offers are new platforms to deliver these fertilizers more efficiently. So one example of that would be foliar applications of fertilizers, as opposed to soil applications. And you could just imagine if you apply a material to the leaves of the plantain and 100% or near 100% of that material enters the plant, it can be used completely efficiently. If you apply these to soils, it's very difficult to get the material into the roots of the plant and up into the plant, and much of that material will runoff into the environment.Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.