Research hub helps BioClay shape up as fungicide alternative

Grain Central, August 21, 2019

A NEW RESEARCH hub led by University of Queensland Professor Neena Mitter is bringing to market a biological alternative to chemical fungicides for use in crops including grains, pulses and cotton.

University of Queensland Professor Neena Mitter. Photo: UQ

The Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformational Research Hub for Sustainable Crop Protection is one of four ARC research hubs announced by the Federal Government on Sunday.

Professor Mitter, who has worked in molecular biology and biotechnology in Australia and India for over 20 years, said the hub was already building on UQ’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,” Professor Mitter said.

BioClay involves topical application of RNA interference using clay particles as carriers.

“There is no genetic modification and the clay is completely biodegradable.”

Professor Mitter said that meant the BioClay would not result in chemical residues in food or run-off into waterways.

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

She said the fungal pathogens targeted by the hub were selected in close consultation with research-and-development corporations and industry partners.

“We will tackle issues such as fungicide resistance or targets where no effective control measures are currently available.”

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, Sustainable Energy Futures, and 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,” Professor Mitter said.

Hub partner organisations are:

  • Nufarm Australia limited;
  • DuluxGroup (Australia) Pty Ltd;
  • Bioplatforms Australia Ltd;
  • AusVeg Ltd;
  • Grains Research & Development Corporation;
  • Cotton Research & Development Corporation;
  • Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited;
  • Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland;
  • NSW Department of Primary Industries;
  • Australian Wine Research Institute;
  • South Australian Research and Development Institute;
  • Australian Grape and Wine Authority;
  • Griffith University;
  • Curtin University;
  • La Trobe University;
  • University of Tasmania;
  • University of California, Riverside.

Source: University of Queensland


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