LETI: LETI Scientists Know How to Increase the Productivity of Growing Chinese Cabbage

Providing food for the world’s ever-growing population is one of the global challenges that every country is facing today in one way or another. One way to meet this challenge is to find new inexpensive and easily scalable methods of increasing the productivity and output of farm animals and plants.

“Our research team developed special sol-gel or silica sol compositions. In simplified form, they can be represented as an aqueous dispersion of silica. Application of such silica gel to the surface of seeds creates a functional coating, which positively influences the growth process of many vegetable and grain plants,” says Olga Shilova, Professor of the Branch Department of Nanotechnology and Nanomaterials in Eadioelectronics of LETI at the Institute of Silicate Chemistry RAS.

Various reagents useful for plants – salts and acids in micro- and macroquantities, nanoparticles of metal oxides, or carbon nanoparticles – can be added to the silica sol composition. For example, a mixture of detonation nanodiamond produced by SKTB Technolog was used as such a functional additive. Detonation nanodiamond (DB) is known as a biologically active additive with, among other things, bactericidal and fungicidal properties. The use of DB charge as a semi-product produced in the DB manufacturing cycle reduces the product’s final cost. In addition to diamonds, it contains several other non-diamond forms of carbon, including beneficial effects on plant growth and development. In this study, a charge enriched with boron was used for seed pretreatment.

The sol-gel composition for seed treatment is environmentally safe because it is made on an aqueous basis. The concentration of functional compounds (silica nanoparticles and DB charge) is low (a few percent); it is practically colorless and odorless. Experiments carried out in collaboration with the Agrophysical Research Institute (St. Petersburg) showed that pre-sowing treatment of Beijing cabbage seeds with the obtained sol-gel composition increased their germination by about 50-70%. There was a significant increase in the seedling size of plants at the initial stage of their development, and in 20 days after sowing, the biomass of Beijing cabbage was doubled. The results were published in the journal Biointerface Research in Applied Chemistry.

“Treatment of plant seeds with sol-gel compositions based on tetraethoxysilane with additives of DB charge improves plant metabolism, facilitates their assimilation of nutrients necessary for their growth and development. Silicon itself in the composition of the functional film is useful for seeds because silicon is involved in plant metabolism. The use of film-forming silica sols allows to protect and fix on the surface of seeds useful for their development nanoparticles better than other analogs (liquid reagents, suspense)”.

Olga Shilova, Professor of the Branch Department of Nanotechnology and Nanomaterials in Eadioelectronics of LETI at the Institute of Silicate Chemistry RAS
In the future, scientists plan to study silica solutions with other functional components, which can be adapted for seed treatment of other types of agricultural plants. Researchers from the Agrophysical Institute and the St. Petersburg Konstantinov Institute of Nuclear Physics also took part in the project. The project also involved researchers from the Kurchatov Institute of Nuclear Physics in St. Petersburg.