May 26, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Crop Parasites Can Be Controlled By New Drug Delivery Methods

Jun 04, 2017 01:56 AM EDT

In order to prevent crop failure from parasites, farmers use large amounts of pesticides. Research has shown that nearly $187 billion worth of crops has been lost due to nematodes. The pesticides increase chemical concentration in food crops. The crop parasites reach well below the roots because the pesticides are poorly spread. They are also causing damage to water resources and other parts of the environment.

Researchers in biomedical engineering at the Case Western University have tried to find a solution to these crop parasites. They have developed drug-delivery technology which is a plant virus. The plant virus contains biological nanoparticles which deliver the pesticide that can kill crop parasites, says Phys.org. The upside of this technique is that it reduces costs of treating crops and also reduces the amount of chemical in the food crops. These viruses can safely and effectively control crop parasites by reducing leaching and runoff along with improving soil diffusion.

Coffee, corn, potatoes, host of fruit trees, soybean and wheat are among the wide range of crops that these crop parasites feed on. According to The Guardian, they damage the roots which nearly kills the new growing plants. The ability of mature plants to absorb water and nutrients gets impaired which affects their yield.

The option which seems viable is to directly feed pesticides to the roots of plants. The researchers planned to deliver drugs to the root through a virus.The plant virus-derived nanoparticles have molecules of a nematicide -crystal violet. These are positively charged particles which when released into the negatively charged channel of the virus produces chemicals which can kill crop parasites.

The virus would manifest itself into the roots of the plants, and each virus would release about 1500 molecules of crystal violet. During liquid culture, this molecule was tested on nematode Caenorhabditis Elegans, the drug-infused the virus nanoparticle which first paralyzed and then killed the crop parasite. Even roundworms could be killed when these nematicide carrying particles are spread on the soil surface. Researchers further plan to use chemical pesticides that are approved for crops to test the effect of the delivery system on crop parasites.

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