Nanotechnology-based Pesticides Offer Precision Pest Control in Agriculture

Category Nanotechnology


Researchers at the University of California San Diego have developed nanoparticles made from plant viruses that can transport pesticides deep into the soil, targeting root-level nematode infestations in a precise and sustainable manner. This technology could reduce the amount of pesticide needed, leading to cost savings for farmers and less contamination in the environment. The use of plant virus nanoparticles for pesticide delivery has the potential to revolutionize pest control in agriculture.


A new form of agricultural pest control could one day take root—one that treats crop infestations deep under the ground in a targeted manner with less pesticide.

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed nanoparticles, fashioned from plant viruses, that can deliver pesticide molecules to soil depths that were previously unreachable. This advance could potentially help farmers effectively combat parasitic nematodes that plague the root zones of crops, all while minimizing costs, pesticide use and environmental toxicity.

The use of pesticides in agriculture has been linked to environmental harm and health risks for workers.

Controlling infestations caused by root-damaging nematodes has long been a challenge in agriculture. One reason is that the types of pesticides used against nematodes tend to cling to the top layers of soil, making it tough to reach the root level where nematodes wreak havoc. As a result, farmers often resort to applying excessive amounts of pesticide, as well as water to wash pesticides down to the root zone. This can lead to contamination of soil and groundwater.

Nematode infestations can cause significant crop yield loss, leading to financial losses for farmers.

To find a more sustainable and effective solution, a team led by Nicole Steinmetz, a professor of nanoengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and founding director of the Center for Nano-ImmunoEngineering, developed plant virus nanoparticles that can transport pesticide molecules deep into the soil, precisely where they are needed. The work is detailed in a paper published in Nano Letters.

Traditional pesticide application methods often lead to excessive pesticide use and contamination of soil and water.

Steinmetz’s team drew inspiration from nanomedicine, where nanoparticles are being created for targeted drug delivery, and adapted this concept to agriculture. This idea of repurposing and redesigning biological materials for different applications is also a focus area of the UC San Diego Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), of which Steinmetz is a co-lead.

“We’re developing a precision farming approach where we’re creating nanoparticles for targeted pesticide delivery,” said Steinmetz, who is the study’s senior author. “This technology holds the promise of enhancing treatment effectiveness in the field without the need to increase pesticide dosage.” .

Plant viruses have been studied for their potential in targeted drug delivery for medical applications.

The star of this approach is the tobacco mild green mosaic virus, a plant virus that has the ability to move through soil with ease. Researchers modified these virus nanoparticles, rendering them noninfectious to crops by removing their RNA. They then mixed these nanoparticles with pesticide solutions in water and heated them, creating spherical virus-like nanoparticles packed with pesticides through a simple one-pot synthesis.

The use of nanoparticles for pesticide delivery could potentially reduce the amount of pesticide needed to combat infestations.

This one-pot synthesis offers several advantages. First, it is cost-effective, with just a few steps and a straightforward purification process. The result is a more scalable method, paving the way toward a more affordable product for farmers, noted Steinmetz. Second, by simply packaging the pesticide inside the nanoparticles, rather than chemically binding it, researchers eliminate potentially harmful chemical reactions between the pesticide and the plant virus. This reduces the chance of unintended side effects on crops or soil health from the pesticide application.

This technology could also offer a more cost-effective solution for farmers, as well as help alleviate concerns about pesticide toxicity.

The potential for this technology to enhance precision and reduce environmental harm in pest control is promising. By targeting the root zone with nanoparticles, pesticides can be delivered directly to nematodes and other pests that cause crop damage, without affecting other beneficial organisms in the soil. This also reduces the amount of pesticide needed, potentially leading to cost savings for farmers and reducing overall pesticide runoff and contamination in the environment.

The use of plant virus nanoparticles for pesticide delivery could revolutionize the way we approach pest control in agriculture. By taking a cue from nanomedicine and applying it to agriculture, researchers are unlocking new possibilities for sustainable and effective pest management. This breakthrough has the potential to make a significant impact on the future of farming and the health of our environment.

Innovative Optical Vortex Laser Enables Cost and Time-Saving Microprinting Technologies

Category Nanotechnology


This article is about a research team from Osaka Metropolitan University who have succeeded in printing micro sized droplets, with a diameter of approximately 100 µm, using a liquid film of fluorescent ink—which is approximately 100 times more viscous than water, by using an innovative optical vortex laser-based technique. This enables cost- and time-saving microprinting technologies with micrometer scale accuracy.


Self-Healing Metal: Scientists Bring Closer to Reality What We Saw in Terminator Movies

Category Nanotechnology


Scientists recently made an accidental discovery that some metals are able to heal themselves. This self-healing process is caused by a combination of local stress and grain boundary migration and can be observed at the nanoscale level. The research made could pave the way for future applications of self-healing metal into various structures, potentially improving their resistance and durability over time.


Synthesizing Polymetallic Nanoclusters with Diverse Applications

Category Nanotechnology


A research team based in China recently published a paper about a new method of synthesizing lanthanide-based polymetallic nanoclusters with diverse applications in advanced sensors and magnetic cooling. As a result of their findings, the team was able to create a new family of metallic compounds with unique properties.


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