The inefficient delivery of agrichemicals in agrifood systems is among the leading cause of serious negative planetary and public health impacts. Such inefficiency is mainly attributed to the inability to deliver the agrichemicals at the right place (target), right time, and right dose. In this study, scalable, biodegradable, sustainable, biopolymer-based multistimuli responsive core–shell nanostructures were developed for smart agrichemical delivery. Three types of responsive core/shell nanostructures incorporated with model agrichemicals (i.e., CuSO4 and NPK fertilizer) were synthesized by coaxial electrospray, and the resulting nanostructures showed spherical morphology with an average diameter about 160 nm. Tunable agrichemical release kinetics were achieved by controlling the surface hydrophobicity of nanostructures. The pH and enzyme responsiveness was also demonstrated by the model analyte release kinetics (up to 7 days) in aqueous solution. Finally, the efficacy of the stimuli responsive nanostructures was evaluated in soil-based greenhouse studies using soybean and wheat in terms of photosynthesis efficacy and linear electron flow (LEF), two important metrics for seedling development and health. Findings confirmed plant specificity; for soybean, the nanostructures resulted in 34.3% higher value of relative chlorophyll content and 41.2% higher value of PS1 centers in photosystem I than the ionic control with equivalent agrichemical concentration. For wheat, the nanostructures resulted in 37.6% higher value of LEF than the ionic agrichemicals applied at 4 times higher concentration, indicating that the responsive core–shell nanostructure is an effective platform to achieve precision agrichemical delivery while minimizing inputs. Moreover, the Zn and Na content in the leaves of 4-week-old soybean seedlings were significantly increased with nanostructure amendment, indicating that the developed nanostructures can potentially be used to modulate the accumulation of other important micronutrients through a potential biofortification strategy.
Copyright © 2021, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey