Iron Nanoparticles Help Almond Trees Cope with Soil Stress

David Palenski
15th February, 2024

Iron Nanoparticles Help Almond Trees Cope with Soil Stress

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Imagine a world where our fruit trees struggle to thrive, their leaves yellowing and their growth stunted. This dismal scene is not from a science fiction novel, but a very real scenario that can arise from an excess of something as seemingly innocuous as bicarbonate in the soil. Indeed, scientists have found that high levels of bicarbonate can cause iron deficiency in fruit trees, a vital nutrient that is pivotal to a plant's health and productivity. However, in a recent study conducted by the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Tehran, new hope emerges from the nanoscale. This innovative research has taken a step forward in addressing the menace of bicarbonate stress to almond trees, through the application of green synthesized iron nano-complexes (Fe-NCs). Harnessing the natural processes to combat this issue, researchers created four different Fe-NCs using extracts from the husks of various nuts and fruits – namely, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and pomegranates. They introduced these nano-complexes to almond trees grown without soil, under conditions intentionally made tough by adding compounds like sodium bicarbonate and calcium carbonate. These additives mimic the bicarbonate stress seen in natural soil environments. For 120 days, the trees were subjected to this stress, with some receiving these novel Fe-NCs, while others received a commercial iron fertilizer known as FeEDDHA for comparison. The goal? To assess whether these iron-rich nanoparticles could defend the almond trees against the adverse effects of bicarbonate. The results of this exposure presented a clear narrative: bicarbonate stress was bad news for almond trees. It led to a decrease in chlorophyll, that precious pigment that gives leaves their green color and plays a crucial role in photosynthesis. There was a surge in proline, a sign of stress in plants, and leaf necrosis began to set in, alongside a general decline in the leafy expanse of the trees. These worrying developments suggested that oxidative damage was afoot, with an increase in harmful hydrogen peroxide levels and a plunge in membrane stability index, betraying the cells' deteriorating health. But here's where the science gets exciting. Not all the nano-fortified trees buckled under the bicarbonate challenge. While pistachio and walnut-based Fe-NCs unfortunately seemed to exacerbate the problem, the Fe-NCs synthesized from almond and pomegranate husks were like knights in shining armor. They successfully replenished the chlorophyll levels in leaves, mitigated the oxidative injuries, and, most importantly, restored iron content within the plants to levels comparable to those aided by the commercial FeEDDHA treatment. These beneficial effects were closely tied to the protein levels in the leaves, a detoxification of hydrogen peroxide, and a boost in catalase activity – a critical enzyme in protecting the cell from oxidative damage. It was clear that these two special Fe-NCs had a unique talent for iron delivery in the face of bicarbonate distress. By revealing the standout performance of green synthesized almond-nFe and pomegranate-nFe, this research sheds light on a promising avenue for supporting fruit-bearing trees through challenging growing conditions. These solutions are not only effective but come with the bonus of being low-cost, leaning into an environmentally friendly approach that aligns with the principles of green chemistry. This pioneering effort paves the way for future applications of nanotechnology in agriculture, demonstrating the potential to turn the tides on soil-based stress factors that affect food production globally. The underlying message is powerful; sometimes, the smallest tools can solve the biggest problems, leading to a greener, more bountiful future. With continued research and innovation, we could see a world where every fruit tree has the resources to flourish – even when facing the puzzling problem of too much bicarbonate in their soil.

AgricultureBiotechPlant Science


Main Study

1) Differential responses of green-synthesized iron nano-complexes in mitigating bicarbonate stress in almond trees.

Published 15th February, 2024

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