Carbon nanotubes have improved existing technologies in fields ranging from electrical circuitry to architecture to materials science. So is it any surprise that when researchers in Arkansas applied the miraculous microscopic structures to tomato seeds, the plants grew faster, stronger, and more plentifully?
The nano-enhanced seeds experienced an increase in germination percentage and better seedling growth, likely due to increased water absorption. Though findings are preliminary, the seeds exposed to nanotubes contained more moisture, which appears to be the catalyst behind their enhanced growth.
On its face, the discovery means carbon nanotubes could potentially unlock a new breed of fertilizers that spur growth in food crops without introducing chemicals to soil and nearby water supplies. Moreover, enhanced growth means enhanced biomass, which could spell big implications for the biofuel arena.
But increased food supply and better biomass doesn't come without its drawbacks. The effects of nanotubes on the environment aren't very well documented. Specifically, the way they might move through the food chain could pose problems down the road. Some single-walled nanotubes are toxic to some insects; testing on mice has found multi-layer nanotubes (like the kind used in the study) have carcinogenic effects similar to those of asbestos. Suffice it to say, the golden age of carbon nanotube farming isn't upon us just yet, but the potential is there, and not just for bigger tomatoes.
it would be nice to see this used in tree farming, assuming you could somehow stop the wildlife from living near or eating parts of the trees.
Yeah that nasty wildlife, how dare they try to eat their food when we are trying to use it for wood, fuel and clearing because it is in the way of a farmers plow.
Did they try a non nanotube form of carbon to compare with? Perhaps ground up activated charcoal.
we can use this to combat desertification and turn a desert into a gigantic farm.
increase food production, therefore food prices will drop.
extremechiton, nanotubes won't conjure water where it doesn't already exist.
and i'll take my produce "possible-asbestosis" free, thanks.
i agree with animemaster, they should try to see if its any improvement over other carbon forms. its a fairly well known fact that charcoal, when put into the ground stops nutrient leaching and increases the amount of water that can be held in the ground. not to mention charcoal is a lot less labor intensive to produce than nanotubes.
What is in the control? It's not soil, so adding anything would probably have had a positive effect.
to luke123abc and animemaster,
I'm sure someone has tried just putting charcoal into the ground, so if that was a miracle growth substance, it would probably be in use already. If this could be used in tree farming to, say, make them grow considerably faster, the teak business, for instance, could be hugely impacted.
With the prices of CNTs ranging from $50-$300 a gram I am sure they will make a excellent fertilizer.