A RESEARCH breakthrough in a UK study reported the use of polymers to block fungal attachment to surfaces that could eventually have big benefits for agriculture.
Australian researcher David Winkler, a professor of chemistry and physics at La Trobe University, was involved in the University of Nottingham project.
He said the major focus was discovering or designing new polymers that repel harmful fungi and bacteria for use in medicine.
However, he said there were also applications in agriculture.
Plants coated with these new polymers that were then infected with fungal diseases showed no evidence of damage after three days.
When treated with the polymers there was a drop in the attachment of harmful fungi, such as Botrytis cinerea (grey mould), to plants.
The coating was thin enough to allow plant leaves to transpire as normal so there was no impact on plant growth during the experiments. The large amount of information provided by the experiments was analysed using machine learning to suggest improved antifungal materials.
Prof Winkler said this could have potentially big implications for agriculture.
"Unlike normal fungicides, the polymers are not killing the fungi so they are unlikely to develop resistance to the treatment over time," Prof Winkler said.
However, this early research is unlikely to result in farmers having polymer sprays to fight fungal disease for some time.
"This is great fundamental science, the challenge will now be for the agricultural R&D sector to take it and work with to come up with a practical formulation," Prof Winkler said.
Cropping officials have long held concerns about the ever-shrinking pool of effective fungicide modes of action.
It is of particular importance in higher rainfall countries with an increased risk of fungal disease outbreaks, such as the United Kingdom, where fungicides are regarded as more important than herbicides.
Prof Winkler said the selection of acrylate polymers for the project was made because they could be easily formulated using a special printer, so hundreds can be tested at a time.
"Many materials were tested and a number of them had low fungal attachment.
The lead investigator on the paper, Simon Avery from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nottingham said the work could provide an important new strategy for managing fungal damage.
"Our industry engagement to date has highlighted a clear need for a new approach to control fungi and the major socioeconomic problems that they cause, as the value of existing strategies using bioactives (antifungals, fungicides) is eroded by growing antifungal resistance and regulations," Prof Avery said.
"This passive, anti-attachment technology addresses this need."
The story Research breakthrough could create alternative to fungicides first appeared on Farm Online.