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Reducing pesticide use with nanoparticles


by University of Fribourg
Researchers at the Adolphe Merkle Institute and the Department of Biology at the University of Fribourg have discovered how certain silica nanoparticles could act as a traceless, degradable, and highly efficient treatment against some plant pathogens.

One of the biggest challenges facing agriculture today is the extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides. With an increasing number of products banned or considered dangerous for human and animal health, the need for substitutes is acute. One approach is to stimulate plants' own immune response to pathogen attacks. Silicic acid, which naturally occurs in soil, is known to provoke such responses in plants, and amorphous silica nanoparticles can release this substance in small amounts. These nanoparticles, which are also naturally present in many food crops such as cereals, are more common than most people think. They are part of food grade silica (SiO2), otherwise known as E551 on labels and packaging, and used for decades in a variety of products such as table salt, pills, or protein powders to avoid clumping.

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