Since green revolution, chemical fertilizers are deemed an indispensable input of modern crop production systems, but these have associated environmental and ecological consequences. Loss of nutrients from agricultural fields in the form of leaching and gaseous emissions has been the leading cause of environmental pollution and climate change. Ensuring the sustainability of crop production necessitates exploring other sources of nutrients and modifying prevalent nutrient sources. Nanotechnology, which utilizes nanomaterials of less than 100 nm size, may offer an unprecedented opportunity to develop concentrated sources of plant nutrients having higher-absorption rate, utilization efficacy, and minimum losses. Nanofertilizers are being prepared by encapsulating plant nutrients into nanomaterials, employing thin coating of nanomaterials on plant nutrients, and delivering in the form of nano-sized emulsions. Nano-pores and stomatal openings in plant leaves facilitate nanomaterial uptake and their penetration deep inside leaves leading to higher nutrient use efficiency (NUE). Nanofertilizers have higher transport and delivery of nutrients through plasmodesmata, which are nanosized (50–60 nm) channels between cells. The higher NUE and significantly lesser nutrient losses of nanofertilizers lead to higher productivity (6–17%) and nutritional quality of field crops. However, production and availability, their sufficient effective legislation, and associated risk management are the prime limiting factors in their general adoption as plant nutrient sources.
Part of the book: Sustainable Crop Production