Title of the research project

NANOGRASS – Development of a NANO-herbicide formulation to minimize the impact of aGRochemicAls on Soil and Subsoil

Scientific area

Environmental Engineering, Nanotechnologies


Chemical substances used in agriculture (agrochemicals) have a significant on the quality of soil, surface and subsurface water. NANOGRASS will help reducing their uncontrolled dispersion in the environment by developing a new environmental friendly formulation based on biodegradable nanoparticles.

Project coordinator: Tiziana Tosco

Description of the research project

The extensive use of herbicides is a common, and often unavoidable, practice in agriculture, but has numerous drawbacks related to their toxicity and mobility in the environment, which may significantly vary among different products. Several compounds are very effective in weed control, and widely used, but are toxic to humans and animals, poorly degradable, and tend to accumulate in soil, subsoil and water. Others are less toxic and persistent, but their use is limited, since they are too volatile or soluble, and consequently a large quantity of product applied in the field is lost in the environment. NANOGRASS aims at promoting the use of this second group, by developing a new environmental friendly nano-formulation capable to protect soluble herbicides, target them to weeds, and limit the uncontrolled spreading in the subsoil and groundwater. Nanoparticles composed by food-grade biodegradable materials will be used as carriers for the soluble herbicide (the so-called active ingredient). Once applied in the field, the particles will slowly release the herbicide where necessary, limiting losses into the subsoil with rain and irrigation. Thus, the amount of active ingredient required for an effective field treatment will be significantly reduced. Moreover, the use of a biodegradable nanoparticles avoids any potential risk associated to the presence of residual, synthetic nanomaterials in the subsoil, which is typical of other nanopesticides based on non-biodegradable carriers.

Impact on society

The improvement of soil and water quality is a major societal challenge. NANOGRASS will exploit the potential of green nanotechnologies to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, by promoting the use of herbicides less toxic and more easily degradable, compared to those most applied nowadays.

The approach followed in NANOGRASS, even if applied here to herbicides, will be potentially applicable to other agrochemicals (insecticides, fertilizers, etc.), thus opening perspectives for a family of nano-formulated products with minimal environmental impact.

Short CV of project coordinator

Tiziana Tosco holds a PhD in Environmental Engineering and is currently Assistant Professor at Politecnico di Torino in the Department of Environment, Land and Infrastructure Engineering (DIATI). She has been working for more than ten years in the Groundwater Engineering group in several national and EU funded projects, mainly facing topics related to groundwater contamination and development of new remediation techniques based on the use of nanotechnologies. She is author of more than 30 papers in international journals, 60 conference proceedings, and she has supervised 4 PhDs and more than 20 MSc theses.

Working group @Polito

Roberto Pisano, Associate Professor, Department of Applied Science and Technology (DISAT);

Francesca Giotti, Assistant Researcher, DIATI;

Carlo Bianco, Post-Doc, DIATI;

Fiora Artusio, PhD student, DISAT.


Academic partner: Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie, Forestali e Alimentari (DISAFA), Università degli Studi di Torino

Non-academic partner: Intrapore GmbH, Essen (Germany)

  • Nanopesticides projects such as INTE