Engineered nanomaterials for the suppression of fungal and viral crop disease in agriculture

J.C. White, W. Elmer, R. Hamers, C. Ma, J. Borgatta, Y. Rui, B. Xing
Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station,
United States

Keywords: nano-enabled agriculture, precision agriculture, nano-pesticide, nano-fertilizer


Plant pathogens reduce crop yield by 10-20% and cause billions of dollars in losses. Nanotechnology can play a critical role in maximizing food production and achieving food security. Copper phosphate nanosheets and copper oxide nanoparticles (NP) suppressed Fusarium infection in watermelon and tomato under greenhouse and field conditions. Foliar application of both NP suppressed disease, although the nanosheets were effective at a 10-fold lower dose. NP amendment significantly impacted the expression of several plant defense genes, suggesting nutrition was important to reduced disease. Separately, the use of NP titanium dioxide, iron oxide, and carbon nanomaterials suppressed Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV) infection of tobacco. NP amendment increased shoot biomass by 50%; florescent images of TuMV abundance on the leaf showed that NMs significantly inhibited viral proliferation. Although viral coat protein gene expression was unchanged, 15-60% decreases in the amount of the coat protein itself were observed. Increased phytohormone levels suggest that NMs play an important role in stimulating plant growth and activating defense mechanisms. Additional studies involving the use of nanoscale copper to control sudden death syndrome in soybean and powdery mildew in roses will also be presented.