Why Tiny is Big for the Future of Farming – How Hydrophobic Nanoparticles Could Transform Agriculture

Nanoscience could be the “no-nonsense” solution to emerging global food crisis. Hydrophobic nanoparticles to help pesticide survive the rain.

Sphere-shaped hydrophobic silica nanoparticles less than 150 nanometres in size having complex cavities on the surface can accommodate and limit the rain-wash of polar pesticides, claims a doctoral thesis published in UQ eSpace. Study further claims that hydrophobic nanoparticles significantly improve the adherence of polar pesticides to non-polar surfaces. The findings shed new light on failing polar pesticide formulations which play a critical role in global agricultural productivity. It highlights the importance of precision engineering nanomaterials for agrochemical delivery purposes.

Dr Sukitha Kothalawala at AIBN wet chemistry lab with hydrophobic particles

Sphere-shaped hydrophobic silica nanoparticles less than 150 nanometres in size having complex cavities on the surface can accommodate and limit the rain-wash of polar pesticides, claims a doctoral thesis published in UQ eSpace. Study further claims that hydrophobic nanoparticles significantly improve the adherence of polar pesticides to non-polar surfaces. The findings shed new light on failing polar pesticide formulations which play a critical role in global agricultural productivity. It highlights the importance of precision engineering nanomaterials for agrochemical delivery purposes.

Dr Sukitha Kothalawala, research fellow at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), and his colleagues analysed the field efficacy and the resilience of novel pesticide nanoformulations under extreme weather conditions. Hydrophobic nanoformulations containing a selected polar pesticide candidate were first tested against the ectoparasite, blowfly larvae. Blowfly maggots pose a significant threat to sheep wool production known as “flystrike”. As a matter of fact, flystrike cost over 280 million AUD to the Australian wool industry annually. Due to the durability and resilience of the nanoparticle formulation, extremely promising results have been achieved against blowfly larvae. Developed formulations outlasted and outperformed leading commercial formulations on the market under relevant pesticide performance criteria. This study helps limit the frequent application of polar pesticides and their numerous adverse effects.

Authors suggest expanding the utility of the nanoformulations from pesticides to other agrochemicals that can add value. It further indicates the versatility of hydrophobic silica nanoparticles. The authors conclude that hydrophobic nanoparticles can effectively limit water access to internal particle surfaces. As a result of the limitation of accessibility, the pesticide gets to remain more inside the cavities maintaining its effectiveness for a prolonged period.

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Country: Australia
Website: https://aibn.uq.edu.au/

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