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Widely Used Nanoparticles Enter Soybean Plants From Farm Soil

Two of the most widely used nanoparticles (NPs) accumulate in soybeans — second only to corn as a key food crop in the United States — in ways previously shown to have the potential to adversely affect the crop yields and nutritional quality, a new study has found. It appears in the journal ACS Nano.

Jorge L. Gardea-Torresdey and colleagues cite rapid increases in commercial and industrial uses of NPs, the building blocks of a nanotechnology industry projected to put $1 trillion worth of products on the market by 2015. Zinc oxide and cerium dioxide are among today’s most widely used NPs. Both are used in cosmetics, lotions, sunscreens and other products. They eventually go down the drain, through municipal sewage treatment plants, and wind up in the sewage sludge that some farmers apply to crops as fertilizer. Gardea-Torresdey’s team previously showed that soybean plants grown in hydroponic solutions accumulated zinc and cerium dioxide in ways that alter plant growth and could have health implications.

The question remained, however, as to whether such accumulation would occur in the real-world conditions in which farmers grow soybeans in soil, rather than nutrient solution.

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