Oral Presentation Science Protecting Plant Health 2017

Agro-nano innovations: game changers for crop protection (4991)

Neena Mitter 1
  1. Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, 4072, QLD, Australia

The current challenges of sustainability, food security and climate change are key drivers for agricultural nanotechnology innovations for crop protection. Even with the best crop management plans in place, viruses and insects challenge all farmers. The ongoing usefulness of chemical pesticides suffers from issues such as residual toxicity, run off, specificity and resistance. Genetic modification (GM) is not available for all crops/pathogens, and it is not the preferred choice for all producers and consumers. Nanoparticle based delivery of pesticides have the potential to provide site-specific and slow-release activity on pests and diseases of plants, with benefits in reduced input and less risk to the environment. Nanoparticles as carriers of innovative biological ‘active ingredients’ rather than chemical ones could be a game changer for future crop protection strategies. BioClay is one such non-toxic, non-GM, biodegradable crop protection platform that delivers pest targeting RNA interference (RNAi) as a topical application using clay nanoparticles. At present the use of RNAi for disease resistance is limited to engineering transgenic disease resistance plants. BioClay opens the huge window of opportunity to deliver the same as a transient spray application.  We have shown that RNAi effectors delivered as BioClay are stable, do not get washed off and provide protection to the sprayed and unsprayed leaves against the targeted virus for up to 20 days post spray.  We have further shown that the clay degrades on the surface of the leaf alleviating any concerns about residues. We are now progressing with exploring BioClay targeting multiple host/pathogen systems and validation in field trials. Globally there are 3000 registered patents for pesticides developed using nanotechnology, indicating to some extent, the potential for future commercialisation.