Modern agriculture requires more efficient and low-impact products and formulations than traditional agrochemicals to improve crop yields. Iron is a micronutrient essential for plant growth and photosynthesis, but it is mostly present in insoluble forms in ecosystems so that it is often limiting for plants. This study was aimed at combining natural strategies and biodegradable nanostructured materials to create environmentally friendly and low-toxic bioactive products capable of both supplying iron to Fe-deficient plants and reducing the impact of agricultural products on the environment. Consequently, free-standing electrospun nanofibrous polycaprolactone/polyhydroxybutyrate thin membranes loaded with catechol (CL-NMs) as an iron-chelating natural agent (at two concentrations) were fabricated on purpose to mobilize Fe from insoluble forms and transfer it to duckweed (Lemna minor
L.) plants. The effectiveness of CL-NMs in providing iron to Fe-deficient plants, upon catechol release, tested in duckweeds grown for 4 days under controlled hydroponic conditions, displayed temporal variations in both photosynthetic efficiency and biometric parameters measured by chlorophyll fluorescence and growth imaging. Duckweeds supplied with CL-NMs hosting higher catechol concentrations recovered most of the physiological and growth performances previously impaired by Fe limitation. The absence of short-term toxicity of these materials on duckweeds also proved the low impact on ecosystems of these products.
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