'BioClay' a ground-breaking discovery for world food security

January 11, 2017, University of Queensland
‘BioClay’ a ground-breaking discovery for world food security
Professor Neena Mitter's discovery will provide an environmentally sustainable alternative to chemicals and pesticides. Credit: University of Queensland

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 .

"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 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.

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 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.

Explore further: Why we need pesticides to feed the world

More information: Neena Mitter et al. Clay nanosheets for topical delivery of RNAi for sustained protection against plant viruses, Nature Plants (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nplants.2016.207

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5 / 5 (1) Jan 11, 2017
This topic food security becomes more and more crazy. DNA edited food, genetically modified food and now RNA modified food. Is there really anybody who believes that this is the correct way? Is this how we want to live?

I don't think so. We should try to solve our problem overpopulation. This causes so many problems. And one the biggest problem is of course lack of food. I think that we should try to reduce the human world population to 3 or 4 billion people. Then nature should be able to reestablish a natural balance. Then we wouldn't be forced to think about deforestation, mass extinction of animal species, climate change, human mass migrations, and a lot of other things.

I am ready to help.
5 / 5 (4) Jan 11, 2017
Please do extensive tests on this wrt. residue of the bio clay in the soil and groundwater (and the health effects on humans). I'm always a bit wary when someone advocates rampant use of nano-[insert product here] in the environment.
Jan 11, 2017
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not rated yet Jan 11, 2017
...and now RNA modified food.

I am ready to help.

Start by reading the article more carefully.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 12, 2017

I am ready to help.

I agree with danR. Read the articles before answering. This has nothing to do with RNA modified foods.

If you really want to help then stop cluttering up these comment sections with comments that completely fail to address the issue at hand (or any issue at all for that matter). Go away. Play somewhere else where you can 'help'. You're not helping here.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 12, 2017
As far as I know, the task of RNA is to manufacture or change a DNA. That's why I have assumed that the plants' DNA is changed. The clay's double-stranded RNA changes the plant's DNA, in order to protect the plant from diseases. Am I wrong with this assumption?
not rated yet Jan 19, 2017
"without altering the genome of the plants"
The article buries the lead a bit, but it seems that the dsRNA is stimulating the plant's natural defenses. I would be curious what the effect of long-term use would be on crop yield. Clouds of nano-clay sounds like it wouldn't be all the much fun to breathe, either. BUT it seems like a neat technology to pursue.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 19, 2017
As far as I know, the task of RNA is to manufacture or change a DNA. That's why I have assumed that the plants' DNA is changed. The clay's double-stranded RNA changes the plant's DNA, in order to protect the plant from diseases. Am I wrong with this assumption?

Yes, you are wrong: DNA is the source. In short RNA is transcribed from parts of DNA and then travels into the cell (mRNA) to produce proteins (via tRNA) . RNA does not change the dNA (except in very specific circumstances of Retroviruses incorproating their material into DNA)

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