Aaron Strickland, a chemist at Cornell University, is using nanotechnology – the science of the very small – to develop what he calls a biosensor. He says this sensor should help farmers manage their crops.
Aaron Strickland: The specific idea was to incorporate sensors into pesticide spray, so that you can monitor how well was the crop field sprayed for pests for example, or adding nutrients to the crop field.
Here’s how it works. Small amounts of gold nanoparticles – a few billionths of a meter in size – are mixed with crop spray. That addition ultimately allows a hand-held laser scanner to pick up a signal of the fertilizer or pesticide. Strickland said knowing what additives are on crops should give farmers a better idea of when to spray again.
Aaron Strickland: So they can get a glimpse into their crop field without having to actually take samples, monitor the chemicals they’ve just sprayed, or send them back to the laboratory.
He said it’ll be years before the biosensors hit the fields and that scientists want more research on how this technique will effect the environment.
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Post Doctoral Research Chemist
Jorge Salazar has conducted thousands of in-depth interviews with scientists in the process of creating science content for EarthSky. He also helps host the 90-second EarthSky podcasts. Jorge has a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He knows a lot about a lot of different things. For EarthSky, he has explored subjects as diverse as nanotechnology, ecosystem-based management, climate change, global health, international environmental treaties, astrophysics and cosmology, and environmental security. His penetrating research style, poetic writing, and ability to track down and speak with Nobel prize-winning laureates, all make him a huge asset to EarthSky.