Newswise — University of Arkansas at Little Rock Biology Professor Mariya Khodakovskaya, her collaborators, and her graduate students are among a handful of scientists around the world pioneering research on the potential benefits of nanotechnology for crops.
Their research was recently published in a book by Springer International Publishing, “Plant Nanotechnology: An Overview on Concepts, Strategies, and Tools.”

The book is co-edited by Khodakovskaya; Dr. Chittaranjan Kole, professor at Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya in India, and Dr. D. Sakthi Kuma, professor at Tokyo University in Japan. The 15 chapters of the book are written by different teams of scientists studying various aspects of plant nanotechnology. The focus is on application potential and concern for nanotoxicity.

“This book provides an overview of all the completed research in this field to date,” Khodakovskaya said. “These studies have shown that nanomaterials can be used for the improvement of yield and quality of crops. Nanomaterials have also exhibited promise for environmentally safe application of fertilizers and plant protection chemicals.”“I believe that by reading ‘Plant Nanotechnology’ any student, researcher, or policymaker can appreciate the potential and the tremendous value of this approach and can have a clear idea of what is going on in this field.”

Nanomaterials first studied in plants included tiny tubes, horns, and sheets (also called graphene) built from individual atoms of carbon. Early research showed improvement in crop yield, suggesting nanomaterials can affect genes involved in water transport in plants like soybean, barley, and corn.

“Interestingly, transport of carbon nanotubes from roots to fruits of tomato plants was documented in one of the published studies, so obviously more research is needed to show the safety of this technology.” Khodakovskaya said. “With that in mind, we have included chapters that discuss how nanomaterials interact in soil-plant systems, concerns of hazards to human health and the environment, and also critical views on compliances. Carbon-based nanomaterials, in general, have been found to be safe in many instances.”

Some of the published studies were done at UA Little Rock as collaborations between the Department of Biology and the Nanotechnology Center.

“The most exciting fields are at the intersections of traditional fields. This interdisciplinary approach to research is the future of science,” Khodakovskaya said.