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Are Natural Alternatives to Pesticides and Fertilisers by Nanotechnology Safe?

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

By 2025, India’s demand for food grain is estimated to be over 300 million tonnes. Fertiliser nutrients play an important role in crop production to meet this growing demand. However, indiscriminate use of chemical fertilisers create nutrient imbalance in soil, leaching losses, reduced productivity and environmental problems. Therefore it is important to integrate other sources of plant nutrients, recycling of crop residues and judicious use of beneficial natural resources including microbes. 

In view of the growing demand of food and increase in the population  Nano enabled products have great potential to improve agriculture inputs with efficacious pesticides and fertilisers with good health and environmental profile. The Nano-biotechnology for Agriculture Conference 2018 has provided space for creative discussion and deliberations amongst the stakeholder agencies to push the frontiers of nanotechnology to address various issues in agriculture. I hope such interactions would lead to build up of a nanotechnology for agriculture community in the country, foster collaborations and harness the potential of nano science to improve agricultural practices.” Dr Dhananjay Tiwary, Joint Director, DBT.

Dr Ajay Mathur, Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), added, “TERI and Deakin University have been able to establish a research agenda to focus on nano-fertilisers and nano-pesticides, among various areas. Our partnership with Deakin University has given us an opportunity to collaborate with leading researchers across the globe and find solutions to challenges in nano biotechnology. The discussions that take place here (in the conference) will provide us a chance to form new partnerships between industries and academia.” 

 “In the larger economic structure within which farming exists in India, we are now at a stage where the amount of foodstuffs produced is equal to or more than what can be economically bought. However, we do have a problem; farmers are not able to make ends meet and overall produce is produced at a price that is more than international prices. Hence, there is a need for production costs to decrease and production to increase. By focusing on applications of nanobiotechnology, we will be able to move in the direction of reduction of prices for agricultural products,” he said. 

The Second International Conference on ‘Nanobiotechnology for Agriculture: Detection, Conservation and Responsible Use of Natural Resources’ kicked off at Aditya Bhawan Auditorium, National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), Gual Pahari, Gurugram on 13 December. The two-day conference is being organised jointly by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt. of India and the TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Centre (TDNBC) at Gurugram. In its first conference, the Krishi Jagran was the Media Partner. The current conference is of two days i.e. 13 and 14 December, interested can contact the organizers.  

Given this scenario, this year’s conference aims to develop a deeper understanding of nutrient and pest management practices, soil conservation, and field detection strategies employing nanomaterials, bionanocatalysis, and other nanotechnology interventions. The conference will also showcase talks and discussion on the critical yet unexplored field of environmental fate of engineered and applied nanomaterials. Underlining the increasing relevance of nano technologies in agriculture and environment, Dr Alok Adholeya, Programme Director, Sustainable Agriculture, TERI, and Director, TDNBC, said many such nanotechnologies may change production process of future fertilisers significantly by bringing highest possible product efficiencies and reducing manufacturing costs. 

Prof Peter Hodgson, Vice President, Industry Engagement, Innovation and Commercialisation, Deakin University, who also spoke at the event, said, “This conference brings together agricultural issues and nanobiotechnology, which is the way to the future. If we bring new science platforms to agricultural issues, we can leapfrog into the next generation of solutions. For example, in India and Australia we tend to overuse pesticides for control of plant diseases; nanotechnology can help minimise this usage and produce products that don’t just have environmentally good outcome but also high crop yields.” 

 Successful application of nanotechnology in agriculture also depends on an effective regulatory mechanism and governance, involving all stakeholders. Hence, a stakeholder’s discussion will also be held as part of the conference on Friday. This discussion will involve all relevant parties to debate the key challenges and areas of accelerated research where nanotechnology can play an important role. 

At the conference, the idea for creating a ‘Nanotechnology for Agriculture and Environment’ society was also mooted. The society would aim for the advancement of nanobiotechnology and nanoscience in India in agriculture and environment by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson and professional society. 

 The TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Centre was established with the mandate of developing innovative nanobiotechnology-based solutions to address current challenges in the field of agriculture and environment. It brings together the complimentary expertise of TERI in agriculture, biotechnology, green energy, bioremediation and nanotechnology and Deakin’s expertise in material, chemical and physical sciences. Jointly supported by both organisations, the Centre aims to take global space through the nanobiotechnology interventions in sustainable agriculture, environment, and energy by employing or developing multidisciplinary approaches, tools and technologies. 

For further details, please
contact: TERI: AasthaManocha: 8447049011 | aastha.manocha@teri.res.in 
Edelman: Sneha Dev: 9958000706 | Sneha.Dev@edelman.com 

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