Biobased nanocarriers to cure plant diseases for the first time
Novel nanocarriers made of “waste” release drugs in a way that cured a plant disease for the first time.
Plant diseases, though a normal part of nature, can have disastrous
effects in agriculture. They reduce food for people and revenues in
rural areas. In the worst cases they result in hunger and starvation, as
many famines in history show. About 16% of all crops are lost to plant
diseases each year across the world.
The Max Planck Institute for
Polymer Research in Mainz has just delivered a double novelty to the
scientific world: nanocarriers made of “waste”, which release drugs in a
way that cured a plant disease for the first time.
are very tiny degradable capsules that have been studied for medical
applications in the last 30 years. These nanocapsules are considered the
“magic bullet” to cure human cancer, because they discharge the drug
directly to the targeted cells.
Treating plant diseases that have never been cured before
to the European research funds of the BIOrescue project, the
researchers at the Max Plank Institute investigated the possibility to
transpose the same principle to cure plant diseases. They have been
testing these nanocapsules to treat ESCA, a fungi disease that affects 2
billion grapevine plants across the world for which there has not been a
cure so far.
Dr Frederik Wurm, who is leading this research at
Max Planck said “After two years of testing in our labs and then on
Riesling vineyards in Germany, it looks like we have managed to reduce
the symptoms of the disease. Further tests will confirm if this cure is a
solution in the long term. If the effects are confirmed the same method
can be extended potentially to any other disease in agriculture.”
“Circular” nanocarriers made of waste
second novelty of these nanoscopic capsules is that they can be made of
waste material – in this case used mushrooms compost.
nanocarriers are made of polymers based on fossil fuels. In the past, we
have developed biobased nanocarriers made of lignin coming from the
paper and pulp industry. But this is the very first time we try to
develop them from agricultural residues, which makes them a truly
“circular” product, from used plant fertiliser to plant cure. Nothing is
going to be wasted!” said Wurm.
To obtain these tiny
biodegradable capsules, the Max Planck researchers carried out a
chemical conversion to transform the soluble lignin obtained after the
pretreatment of used mushroom compost.
nanocarriers have been loaded with the drug that is usually sprayed on
the plant with very limited effects. Thanks to the natural enzymatic
degradation of the nanocarriers, the drug is released inside the plant
in a controlled and progressive way. With this effective method the drug
only targets the fungi, which destroy the plant from inside. Tests
demonstrated that these nanocarriers are not toxic for the plants and do
not reach the crop.
“Beyond the agricultural sector, the
capsules have a myriad of other potential applications from food
enhancement to pharmaceutical products. It’s only a matter of time until
we find biobased nanocarriers available on the market for any of these
uses,” said Wurm.
For more information, you can visit the BIOrescue website at www.biorescue.eu watch our project video, and access further project communication material in our Media Kit.
CONTINUE READING ON cordis.europa.eu