#04 2023

Using nanotechnology for biodiversity restoration and ecosystem services

By Staff Writer

Dr Ademola Adetunji is a Professional Development Programme (PDP) Research Fellow at SAEON’s Ndlovu Node and the North-West University (NWU) under the mentorship of Dr Dave Thompson (SAEON) and Professor Stefan Siebert (NWU). His current research focus revolves around nano-priming technology for seed invigoration, aiming to restore grassy biomes and enhance associated ecosystem services.

Ademola’s passion for plant physiology began during his undergraduate and master’s studies, where he gained valuable research experience in phytochemical analysis, water stress and seed invigoration studies of traditional medicinal plants in Nigeria. To deepen his understanding of plant physiology, Ademola pursued his PhD at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

There, he focused on investigating the mechanisms of seed ageing as well as the reinvigoration of deteriorated seeds as a contribution towards achieving the much-desired increased crop productivity, improved ecosystem resilience, protection and restoration of plant biodiversity for future agricultural food production in the face of the rising world population and changing climate.

He joins SAEON Ndlovu after completing a previous postdoctoral fellowship with esteemed Professor Jill Farrant at the University of Cape Town where, among other opportunities, he was involved in the Aleph-1 project, which prepared seeds of a resurrection plant for germination on the moon!

Addressing global challenges through nanotechnology

Increasing environmental stress and its impact on the ecosystem and crop productivity have raised concerns about achieving sustainable restoration success and ecosystem functionality. Ademola understands that without a systematic approach to plant genetic and physiological quality conservation, meeting the demand for biodiversity restoration and ecosystem resilience will remain challenging. Motivated by a strong commitment to tackling these challenges, Ademola has incorporated nanotechnology into his research endeavours.

Exploring nano-priming technology for grassland restoration  

Nanotechnology is considered one of the key technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) due to its wide applicability and potential benefits. Ademola’s novel approach involves the synthesis and application of biocompatible, eco-friendly and non-toxic nanomaterials to enhance seed performance and contribute to the restoration of declining biodiversity and improved per-unit yield.

The application of nanomaterials to seeds provides them with improved germination, vigour and stress tolerance capacities. This innovative technique shows promising potential in various fields, including seed science, agricultural crop production, restoration ecology and the commercialisation of indigenous crops.

Ademola’s perspectives  

As Ademola continues his research journey at SAEON and NWU, he holds the conviction that his contributions to nanotechnology and seed biotechnology will have a positive impact on biodiversity restoration and agricultural practices in general.

In his own words, Ademola expresses his excitement for his SAEON postdoc research and the opportunity to contribute to restoration, conservation and the local bioeconomy: “I believe that understanding seed physiology plays a pivotal role in accomplishing these goals, and I am eager to learn from seasoned professionals (my hosts) who can mentor me into becoming a leading researcher in the field.”

“I regard my hosts as science enthusiasts and strong advocates for sustainable practices. With a keen interest in environmental research, they are dedicated to spreading awareness about the latest advancements in the field of ecology and conservation.”

Ademola not only dedicates himself to research but also embraces his faith wholeheartedly, finding joy in engaging in various church activities and cherishing moments spent with his beloved family.

Seed assessment in the herbarium at North-West University (Photo: Samisha Beepath)

Dr Ademola Adetunji on a special family outing (Photo: Picture Café)