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University of Qld staff research biological crop protection that prevents loss of crops

University of Queensland researchers are working on a biological crop protection that is biodegradable and won’t result in chemical residues in food or run-off into waterways.

The crop protection technology would help prevent crops from being lost to pests and pathogens – reducing waste.

University of Queensland’s Professor Neena Mitter said the team from the Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformational Research Hub for Sustainable Crop Protection is building on the university’s BioClay technology to create a ‘smart’ form of biological crop protection.

“We will be bringing biological-based fungicides to Australian broadacre and horticultural crops, resulting in reduced chemical use, increased crop productivity, and improved sustainability across the supply chain.

“This technology involves topical application of RNA interference using clay particles as carriers. There is no genetic modification and the clay is completely biodegradable,” Mitter said.

The BioClay would not result in chemical residues in food or run-off into waterways, she explained.

“Globally, an estimated 40 per cent of food grown is lost to crop pests and pathogens.”

The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation project involves staff from Australian Institute Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, School of Chemical Engineering and the Centre for Policy Futures.

“The hub comprises an expert multidisciplinary team including science, commercial and policy experts, with the aim of increasing productivity, market access and enhanced environmental credentials of Australian food,” Mitter said.