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Tomatoes See A Boost In Growth With Spraying Nanoparticles On Leaves


With the global population projected to touch over 9.5 billion by 2050, scientists are devising strategies to cater to the increasing demand for food. This is being done without exhausting natural resources like energy and water – a drive referred to as the food-water-energy nexus.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) are now addressing this issue with the use of nanoparticles to enhance the growth of tomato plants along with their nutrient content. This new technique devised by Ramesh Raliya and Pratima Biswas, researches at WUSTL’s School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, uses nanoparticles composed of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to improve the ability of the tomato plant to absorb minerals and light. Zinc is an important nutrient that boosts the functions of various enzymes in the plant while titanium oxide improves the content of chlorophyll in the leaves. This idea hit them while working with solar cells. It was also seen that the  fruit produced that way had higher levels of antioxidants.

Raliya said that a plant can only absorb approximately 20% of the nutrients from the soil, since the remainder is either stable complex which the plant cannot use or washed out by water, leading to runoff.

According to Biswas, when a plant grows, it sends out messages to the soil stating that it requires nutrients and if that nutrient is not available in an accessible form, it secretes enzymes which then react with the soil to stimulate bacterial microbes to transform the nutrients into a state that can be used by the plant, said Biswas. He added that the team is now focused on aiding this process by involving nanoparticles.

The team found that depositing the nanoparticles on the leaves of the plants directly led to comparatively greater absorption of nutrients than if the nutrients were mixed with the soil. They accomplished this by using a very fine spray with novel aerosolization methods to deposit the nanoparticles directly on the leaves.

The study observed that the plants treated with the nanoparticles produced almost 82% more fruit by weight, than the ones that were untreated. Furthermore the treated tomato plants showed an enhancement in lycopene (ranging from 80 to 113%) – an antioxidant that reduces the risks associated to cancer, heart disease and eye disorders resulting from aging.

Raliya along with his team members are now working on ways to create a new formulation of nanonutrients which includes all the 17 essential elements required for the healthy growth of plants.

The findings were published in the journal Metallomics (“Mechanistic evaluation of translocation and physiological impact of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles on the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) plant”).

About the author

Pankaj Mondal

Pankaj has been working as a freelance business blogger offering writing and editing services since 2010. He is based in a small town in India. His goal is to create the best possible content based on the client’s specifications as well as assist aspiring bloggers pursue their dreams. He has created content for various industries, including real estate, finance, health, tech, content marketing, online gambling and much more.