An investigation was initiated to examine the effects of nanoscale zinc oxide particles on plant growth and development. In view of the widespread cultivation of peanut in India and in other parts of the globe and in view of the potential influence of zinc on its growth, this plant was chosen as the model system. Peanut seeds were separately treated with different concentrations of nanoscale zinc oxide (ZnO) and chelated bulk zinc sulfate (ZnSO 4) suspensions (a common zinc supplement), respectively and the effect this treatment had on seed germination, seedling vigor, plant growth, flowering, chlorophyll content, pod yield and root growth were studied. Treatment of nanoscale ZnO (25 nm mean particle size) at 1000 ppm concentration promoted both seed germination and seedling vigor and in turn showed early establishment in soil manifested by early flowering and higher leaf chlorophyll content. These particles proved effective in increasing stem and root growth. Pod yield per plant was 34% higher compared to chelated bulk ZnSO 4 Consequently, a field experiment was conducted during Rabi seasons of 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 with the foliar application of nanoscale ZnO particles at 15 times lower dose compared to the chelated ZnSO 4 recommended and we recorded 29.5% and 26.3% higher pod yield, respectively, compared to chelated ZnSO 4 The inhibitory effect with higher nanoparticle concentration (2000 ppm) reveals the need for judicious usage of these particles in such applications. This is the first report on the effect of nanoscale particles on peanut growth and yield. © 2012 Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.