Drug delivery in plants
Fungal disease of crop plants causes millions of Euros of agricultural damage every year. Often they cannot or only hardly be medicated by commercial chemical protection. We are developing a nanotechnology-based protection with minimal use of active agents, which avoids excessive spraying of fungicides. The fungal disease 'Esca' infects grapevines and causes great financial damage to winegrowers every year. The fungus infects the vine trunks and decomposes the wood from inside - so spraying cannot reach the fungus. With our biobased and biodegradable nanocarriers, we were able to protect and heal the grapevine plants from the infection. The lignin-based nanocarriers are filled with a commercially available fungicide and are injected directly into the trunk of the plants. In cooperation with the 'Institute for Biotechnology and Drug Research' and the Institute for Crop Protection in Neustadt a. d. Weinstraße (DLR), the nanocarriers were applied in several grapevine plants in a test vineyard of the DLR. The shell of these nanocarriers is made of lignin - a substance that is the main component of wood besides cellulose. Therefore, this shell can also be decomposed by the fungus, thus releasing the agent inside the nanoparticle.