In the fight to save the world's crops from pests bent on destroying them, a group of scientists at the University of Queensland have developed a ground breaking product that packs a powerful punch. BioClay, an environmentally sustainable alternative to chemical-laden pesticides, utilizes natural means to trigger a crop's self-preservation instincts and stop plant diseases in their tracks.
Developed by the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN), the revolutionary new spray could change the way rural sectors grow and protect even the most pesticide-resistant crops. According to Professor Neena Mitter, agricultural biotechnologist and research leader, throughout the testing period researchers sprayed crops with a "nano-sized degradable clay used to release double-stranded RNA that protects plants from specific disease-causing pathogens."
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"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," the researcher says. As ABC reports, the clay, which contains molecules of RNA, a sibling of DNA, can switch off certain gene expressions, lowering a plant's susceptibility to a virus. Once a virus makes contact with a plant, the RNA will kill the pathogen before it can wreak its havoc. The innovative spray serves to bind the RNA molecules to the plant for a long-lasting effect.