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Oct. 22, 2009 — With potential adverse
health and environmental effects often in the news about
nanotechnology, scientists in Arkansas are reporting that carbon
nanotubes (CNTs) could have beneficial effects in agriculture. Their
study, scheduled for the October issue of ACS Nano, found
that tomato seeds exposed to CNTs germinated faster and grew into
larger, heavier seedlings than other seeds. That growth-enhancing
effect could be a boon for biomass production for plant-based biofuels
and other agricultural products, they suggest.
Mariya Khodakovskaya, Alexandru Biris, and colleagues note that
considerable scientific research is underway to use nanoparticles --
wisps 1/50,000th the width of a human hair -- in agriculture. The goals
of "nano-agriculture" include improving the productivity of plants for
food, fuel, and other uses.
The scientists report the first evidence that CNTs penetrate the
hard outer coating of seeds, and have beneficial effects.
Nanotube-exposed seeds sprouted up to two times faster than control
seeds and the seedlings weighed more than twice as much as the
untreated plants. Those effects may occur because nanotubes penetrate
the seed coat and boost water uptake, the researchers state. "This
observed positive effect of CNTs on the seed germination could have
significant economic importance for agriculture, horticulture, and the
energy sector, such as for production of biofuels," they add.
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