This is some interesting agricultural research from Australia. From a Jan. 11, 2017 news item on phys.org,
A University of Queensland team has made a discovery that could help conquer the greatest threat to global food security – pests and diseases in plants.
Research leader Professor Neena Mitter said BioClay – an environmentally sustainable alternative to chemicals and pesticides – could be a game-changer for crop protection.
“In agriculture, the need for new control agents grows each year, driven by demand for greater production, the effects of climate change, community and regulatory demands, and toxicity and pesticide resistance,” she said.
“Our disruptive research involves a spray of nano-sized degradable clay used to release double-stranded RNA, that protects plants from specific disease-causing pathogens.”
The research, by scientists from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) is published in Nature Plants.
A Jan. 11, 2017 University of Queensland press release, which originated the news item, provides a bit more detail,
Professor Mitter said the technology reduced the use of pesticides without altering the genome of the plants.
“Once BioClay is applied, the plant ‘thinks’ it is being attacked by a disease or pest insect and responds by protecting itself from the targeted pest or disease.
“A single spray of BioClay protects the plant and then degrades, reducing the risk to the environment or human health.”
She said BioClay met consumer demands for sustainable crop protection and residue-free produce.
“The cleaner approach will value-add to the food and agri-business industry, contributing to global food security and to a cleaner, greener image of Queensland.”
AIBN’s Professor Zhiping Xu said BioClay combined nanotechnology and biotechnology.
“It will produce huge benefits for agriculture in the next several decades, and the applications will expand into a much wider field of primary agricultural production,” Professor Xu said.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
Clay nanosheets for topical delivery of RNAi for sustained protection against plant viruses by Neena Mitter, Elizabeth A. Worrall, Karl E. Robinson, Peng Li, Ritesh G. Jain, Christelle Taochy, Stephen J. Fletcher, Bernard J. Carroll, G. Q. (Max) Lu & Zhi Ping Xu. Nature Plants 3, Article number: 16207 (2017) doi:10.1038/nplants.2016.207 Published online: 09 January 2017
This paper is behind a paywall.
I don’t usually do this but here’s the abstract for the paper,
Topical application of pathogen-specific double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) for virus resistance in plants represents an attractive alternative to transgenic RNA interference (RNAi). However, the instability of naked dsRNA sprayed on plants has been a major challenge towards its practical application. We demonstrate that dsRNA can be loaded on designer, non-toxic, degradable, layered double hydroxide (LDH) clay nanosheets. Once loaded on LDH, the dsRNA does not wash off, shows sustained release and can be detected on sprayed leaves even 30 days after application. We provide evidence for the degradation of LDH, dsRNA uptake in plant cells and silencing of homologous RNA on topical application. Significantly, a single spray of dsRNA loaded on LDH (BioClay) afforded virus protection for at least 20 days when challenged on sprayed and newly emerged unsprayed leaves. This innovation translates nanotechnology developed for delivery of RNAi for human therapeutics to use in crop protection as an environmentally sustainable and easy to adopt topical spray.
It helps a bit but I’m puzzled by the description of BioClay as an alternative to RNAi in the first sentence because the last sentence has: “This innovation translates nanotechnology developed for delivery of RNAi … .” I believe what they’re saying is that LDH clay nanosheets were developed for delivery of RNAi but have now been adapted for delivery of dsRNA. Maybe?
At any rate this paper is behind a paywall.