Biosensor Detects Herbicides On The Farm

Researchers are hoping a new biosensor may help farmers and regulatory officials detect herbicides in soil and water samples. Herbicides are used to control unwanted plants such as weeds. However, heavy applications of herbicides can leave environmentally unsafe residues in soil and water.

The new biosensor is made of a chlorophyll-like chemical that can measure oxygen levels. This chemical produces oxygen in the presence of certain chemicals and light.

In testing for a herbicide, a liquid sample is passed through the biosensor. If the sample contains a herbicide, it will react with the biosensor's

Nanotechnology for Food, Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture, and Forestry 155 Table 7.1 Pesticide Persistence in Soil

Moderate

Low

(half-life 30-100

High

(half-life < 30 days)

days)

(half-life > 100 days)

Aldicarb

Aldrin

Bromacil

Captan

Atrazine

Chlordane

Calapon

Carbaryl

Lindane

Dicamba

Carbofuran

Paraquat

Malathion

Diazinon

Picloram

Methyl-parathion

Endrin

TCA

Oxamyl

Heptachlor

Trifluralin

proteins and inhibit oxygen production. The electrode in the biosensor detects oxygen levels and sends the information to a computer that displays the data in graph form. Reading the oxygen levels from the data a scientist can determine if too much or too little of herbicides has been applied to the soil. The biosensor can also identify traces of chemical residues in a matter of minutes.

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