Seed treatment with iron pyrite (FeS2) nanoparticles increases the production of spinach

Gaurav Srivastava, Chinmaya Kumar Das, Anubhav Das, Satish Kumar Singh, Manas Roy, Hansung Kim, Niroj Sethy, Ashok Kumar, Raj Kishore Sharma, Sushil Kumar Singh, Deepu Philip, Mainak Das

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Citations (Scopus)


Certain nano-materials are known to have plant growth promoting effects, which could find applications in agriculture. We drew inspiration from the nano-factories of deep-sea hydrothermal vents; where iron pyrite nanoparticles serve as fertilizer to sustain chemoautotrophic life forms. We synthesized such iron pyrite nanoparticles in a controlled environment and used them as seed treatment agent (Pro-fertilizer). For us, the term 'pro-fertilizers' represents those materials that cause enhanced plant growth with minimum interference to the soil ecosystem when used for seed treatment. We conducted multi-location field trials on spinach crops, since it is a globally popular crop, consumed as both fresh (salads) and processed food. The spinach seeds were treated for 14 hours in an aqueous suspension of iron pyrite nanoparticle (FeS2 + H2O) and thereafter directly sown in the field setup for the experiment. The control seeds were only treated in water for the same duration and sown directly in the field. After 50 days, the crop yields from iron-pyrite nanoparticle treated seeds and control seeds were evaluated. The plants developed from iron pyrite nanoparticle treated seeds exhibited significantly broader leaf morphology, larger leaf numbers, increased biomass; along with higher concentration of calcium, manganese and zinc in the leaves when compared to the plants developed from control seeds. We further investigated the possible mechanism resulting in the biomass enhancement following seed-treatment. Our results indicate that there is an enhanced breakdown of stored starch in the iron pyrite treated seeds resulting in significantly better growth. This raises the possibility of developing iron pyrite nanoparticles as a commercial seed-treatment agent (pro-fertilizer) for spinach crops.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58495-58504
Number of pages10
JournalRSC Advances
Issue number102
Publication statusPublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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