April 20, 2021 | By: Katie Pratt
Lexington, Ky.

Nitrogen leaching is a constant concern for many in the agricultural industry with many working to determine how to prevent it. Tiffany Messer, a researcher in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, is leading a study that will determine the impact nanopesticides have on the nitrogen cycle and the environment. 

Nanopesticides are a new technology that recently became commercially available. They are comprised of extremely tiny particles with a large surface area. The large surface area allows them to provide good protection against pests while using less of the active pesticide ingredient. As a result, they are designed to reduce the environmental impacts and/or increase crop productivity, but researchers are still trying to determine how this technology fits into and impacts agroecosystems. 

In a recent study completed by my team, we observed that traditional pesticides do not appear to inhibit nitrogen removal from downstream best management systems, such as wetlandsThis study will determine whether nanopesticides have a different effect on the nitrogen cycle in wetland and cropland ecosystems,” said Messer, an assistant professor in the UK Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. “Results of this study will guide growers and the pesticide industry on how they can best use nanopesticides while preserving and protecting the health of our soils, natural resources and the environment.” 

Messer will specifically study the impacts of a copper-based nanopesticide currently used in wine production and a newly designed imidacloprid-based nanopesticide slated to be used in corn production. Her collaborators include Dan Miller, a research microbiologist at the U.SDepartment of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Services lab in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Manuel Montaño, assistant professor at Western Washington University. 

The researchers will look at the impacts each of these nanopesticides have on the nitrogen cycle at the laboratory and field scale in soils commonly found in cropland and wetlands in the Southeastern and Northwestern United States. Messer will determine how long these chemicals remain in the soil following application and then if or how they degrade and if they are transported through the soil or runoff. 

“Through this study, I hope to provide realistic recommendations for producers, so they can minimize environmental impacts of nanopesticides,” Messer said. “I also hope to provide information about fate and transport of nanopesticides for researchers to use to address other questions in agriculture and downstream best management practices, and to develop a predictive model for fate and transport of nanopesticides. 

 The four-year study is funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2021-67021-34368. USDA is an equal opportunity employer and service provider. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 


Tiffany Messer, tiffany.messer@uky.edu