Having BioClay in the mix as an environmentally friendly, sustainable crop protection measure may reduce crop losses.
Photo: © ittipon2002

17.02.2017

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A nano-sized bio-degradable clay-comprising double stranded ribonucleic acid (dsRNA) could offer a cost-effective, clean and green alternative to chemical-based plant pesticides.

Australian researchers from the University of Queensland have successfully used a gene-silencing spray, named BioClay, a combination of biomolecules and clay, to protect tobacco plants from a virus for 20 days with a single application. Their study has been published in Nature Plants.

“When BioClay is sprayed onto a plant, the virus-specific dsRNA (stranded ribonucleic acid) is slowly released from the clay nanosheets into the plant. This activates a pathway in the plant that is a natural defence mechanism. The dsRNA is chopped up into small bits of RNA by enzymes of this pathway. These small bits attack the virus when it infects the plant without altering the plant genome,” explains lead researcher, Neena Mitter, in an interview with SciDev in January in Sydney/Australia.

“Even with current pesticides, we lose up to 40 per cent of our crop productivity because of pests and pathogens. We are hoping that having BioClay in the mix as an environmentally friendly, sustainable crop protection measure will reduce crop losses,” Mitter adds.

While chemical-based pesticides kill the targeted insect, they can also affect a range of other insects that are beneficial, explains the scientists, and adds that BioClay is specific and it only kills the pathogen being targeted.

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