Advantages of Nanofertilizers over the Traditional Chemical Fertilizers: History
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The microflora of the soil is adversely affected by chemical fertilizers. Excessive use of chemical fertilizers has increased crop yield dramatically at the cost of soil vigor. The pH of the soil is temporarily changed by chemical fertilizers, which kill the beneficial soil microflora and can cause absorption stress on crop plants. This leads to higher dosages during the application, causing groundwater leaching and environmental toxicity. Nanofertilizers (NFs) reduce the quantity of fertilizer needed in agriculture, enhance nutrient uptake efficiency, and decrease fertilizer loss due to runoff and leaching. Moreover, NFs can be used for soil or foliar applications and have shown promising results in a variety of plant species. The main constituents of nanomaterials are micro- and macronutrient precursors and their properties at the nanoscale.

  • nano-fertilizer
  • sustainable agriculture
  • eco-friendly

1. Introduction

Plant nutrients or fertilizers are materials that are responsible for plant growth and development with elements or nutrients. Due to the excessive use of fertilizers, the fertility of the soil has been decreased by destroying the beneficial microbes, and, therefore, there is a dire need for alternative and eco-friendly nanofertilizers (NFs) that are the most vital application of nanotechnology in the agricultural sector [1]. Nutrient carriers or transporters using substrates with nano dimensions of 1–100 nm are being developed. NFs can be manufactured from conventional fertilizers, bulk fertilizer materials, or extracted from other plants by encapsulating/coating them with nanomaterials (NMs). In addition to having a large surface area, nanoparticles can hold plenty of nutrients while slowly and steadily releasing them. The crop is then able to absorb nutrients according to its needs without any adverse effects that are found with traditional fertilizers [2]. Various metabolic reactions in the plant are facilitated by the extra surface area, such as enhanced photosynthesis, resulting in increased productivity. Since NFs deliver nutrients directly to the plants, ecotoxicity is reduced, and loss of nutrients to the soil or groundwater is prevented [3]. There is a range of particle sizes between 1 and 100 nanometers for NFs. The application sites, such as soil or leaves surface, promote more penetration of nanoparticles into the plant. The nanoparticles are more likely to diffuse into the crop from the surface if they are smaller than the pore size of the leaves and roots [4], making them more effective at uptake and use. Photosynthesis, nutrient absorption efficacy, photosynthate accumulation, nutrient translocation, and pest and pathogen resistance are significantly improved by NFs. In addition to increasing productivity, this also improves soil quality, leading to enhanced crop yields.

2. Chemical Fertilizers and Their Drawbacks

Traditionally, fertilizers deliver nutrients in chemical forms that plants cannot readily absorb. Moreover, most of the macronutrients added by these chemical fertilizers are very poorly soluble in soil, leading to very low consumption. As a result, there is a need for repetitive application of these chemical fertilizers. Increasing food demand requires farmers to use more chemical fertilizers, which in turn affects soil and environmental health. As a result of the excessive use of chemical fertilizers, the soil structure and mineral cycles are irreversibly damaged. In addition, excessive and disproportionate fertilizer application harms soil microflora, plants, and ultimately, food chains throughout ecosystems, leading to inherited mutations in future generations. Agricultural nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilizers have been identified as the major anthropogenic factor leading to worldwide eutrophication problems [4]. A farmer’s profit margin is reduced when he uses chemical fertilizers. In addition, the prolonged use of conventional fertilizers has led to severe environmental repercussions worldwide, such as groundwater contamination, water eutrophication, chemical burning, soil degradation, and air pollution [10,11]. As a result of high release rates of nutrients, conventional fertilizers negatively affect the nutrient use efficiency (NUE) of crops and/or by converting nutrients that are not bioavailable to crops [12,13].

3. Advantages of Nanofertilizers over the Traditional Chemical Fertilizers

Farmers and gardeners now have access to nanofertilizers, a relatively new type of fertilizer. They are a desirable alternative for individuals wishing to improve the health and production of their plant and soil fertility because they have numerous advantages over conventional chemical fertilizers.
The improved effectiveness of nanofertilizers in delivering nutrients directly into plant cells is its most significant benefit. By doing this, plants get all the nutrients they need without any excess ending up in the soil or running off into nearby waterbodies, such as lakes and streams, which could damage the environment due to nutrient pollution from too much nitrogen or phosphorus in these bodies of water. Additionally, adopting goods based on nanotechnology results in lower costs for farmers and less overall environmental impact for important applications because they are more effective at delivering vital nutrients than conventional fertilizer products.
Micronutrients, such as zinc or iron, which may not be easily accessible by conventional methods, can dramatically affect crop yields if low levels exist in soils. It is a sort of specialized plant nutrition requirement that can be targeted using nanofertilizer technology. Researchers can now create slow-release formulations thanks to nanoparticles, which reduce the risk of leaching while still providing plants with the necessary nutrition during critical growth stages, such as flowering and fruiting when higher levels of some minerals are needed to support reproductive processes and help crops grown in these conditions produce to their highest potential.
Furthermore, it can be used in conjunction with nanobiofertilizers (NBFs) to improve crop plant stress tolerance. Although it has the potential to launch a new crop management strategy, its limitations should be carefully examined before implementation [5].
In fact, nanotechnology offers several distinct advantages over conventional approaches to agricultural production, including improved nutrient availability. Greater efficiencies in application rates targeted delivery of specific micronutrients need slower releases, reduce leaching losses, and enhance yield potentials (Table 1). All of these explain why it is becoming an increasingly popular choice among growers today.
Table 1. Differential Features of Nanofertilizers and Traditional Fertilizers [14].

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/agrochemicals2020017

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