Nano-enabled pesticides for sustainable agriculture and global food security

Nat Nanotechnol. 2022 Apr;17(4):347-360. doi: 10.1038/s41565-022-01082-8. Epub 2022 Mar 24.


Achieving sustainable agricultural productivity and global food security are two of the biggest challenges of the new millennium. Addressing these challenges requires innovative technologies that can uplift global food production, while minimizing collateral environmental damage and preserving the resilience of agroecosystems against a rapidly changing climate. Nanomaterials with the ability to encapsulate and deliver pesticidal active ingredients (AIs) in a responsive (for example, controlled, targeted and synchronized) manner offer new opportunities to increase pesticidal efficacy and efficiency when compared with conventional pesticides. Here, we provide a comprehensive analysis of the key properties of nanopesticides in controlling agricultural pests for crop enhancement compared with their non-nanoscale analogues. Our analysis shows that when compared with non-nanoscale pesticides, the overall efficacy of nanopesticides against target organisms is 31.5% higher, including an 18.9% increased efficacy in field trials. Notably, the toxicity of nanopesticides toward non-target organisms is 43.1% lower, highlighting a decrease in collateral damage to the environment. The premature loss of AIs prior to reaching target organisms is reduced by 41.4%, paired with a 22.1% lower leaching potential of AIs in soils. Nanopesticides also render other benefits, including enhanced foliar adhesion, improved crop yield and quality, and a responsive nanoscale delivery platform of AIs to mitigate various pressing biotic and abiotic stresses (for example, heat, drought and salinity). Nonetheless, the uncertainties associated with the adverse effects of some nanopesticides are not well-understood, requiring further investigations. Overall, our findings show that nanopesticides are potentially more efficient, sustainable and resilient with lower adverse environmental impacts than their conventional analogues. These benefits, if harnessed appropriately, can promote higher crop yields and thus contribute towards sustainable agriculture and global food security.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Food Security
  • Nanostructures*
  • Pesticides*
  • Soil


  • Pesticides
  • Soil