In recent decades, nano-scale zero valent iron is reported to have plant growth enhancement capacity under laboratory conditions, but till date, there is no report to highlight its effect on the growth and yield of field-grown plants. In this study, we have evaluated the potential of nZVI priming on rice yield. A two-year field study has been conducted with different concentrations (10, 20, 40, and 80 mg l−1) of nZVI for seed priming. The efficacy of nanopriming was compared with the hydroprimed control set. Seeds were treated for 72 h and sown in nursery beds and after 30 days seedlings were transplanted in the field. Root anatomy and morphology were studied in 7 days old seedlings where no changes were found. RAPD analysis also confirmed that low doses of nZVI were not genotoxic. Nanoprimed plants also had broader leaves, higher growth, biomass, and tiller number than control plants. Maximum yield was obtained from the 20 mg l−1 nZVI primed set (3.8 fold higher than untreated control) which is achieved primarily because of the increase in fertile tiller numbers (two fold higher than untreated control). Higher values of other agronomic parameters like growth rate, net assimilation rate proved that nZVI priming enhanced photosynthetic efficiency and helped in the proper storage of photo-assimilates. All these attributed to increased accumulation of phytochemicals like starch, soluble sugar, protein, lipid, phenol, riboflavin, thiamine, and ascorbic acid in the grains. The elemental analysis confirmed that nZVI priming also promoted higher accumulations of macro and micronutrients in grains. Thus, nanoprimed seeds showed better crop performance compared to the traditional hydropimed seeds. Hence, nZVI can be considered as ‘pro-fertilizer’ and can be used commercially as a seed treatment agent which is capable of boosting plant growth and yield along with minimum interference to the soil ecosystem. © 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC part of Springer Nature.