Biologic sunscreen could extend the potency of green pesticides

August 10, 2015 by Drader

Not too many years ago, people would go to the beach, slather on some suntan oil that smelled like coconuts, and then lie back and BURN.

Didn’t take long for researchers to link ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun to skin cancer. Today, sunscreens that block UV rays are now the norm; at least among those who value their health.

Now researchers with EcoPesticides are developing a sunscreen for biologic-based pesticides and herbicides, products whose performance is compromised by UV rays. This is particularly true for Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring microbe that produces proteins toxic to insects. There are many variations of Bt that target specific insect pests and have been registered for use in pesticides by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1961.

A half-century later, there are more than 180 registered pesticide products containing Bt available in sprays, dusts, granules, and pellets. They are used on field crops, in aquatic settings, and in some cases, in organic farming. These Bt-laced pesticides are highly effective in killing target pests without harming the environment.

All is not perfect. Bt has an Achilles heel: the toxins created by Bt break down rapidly by the UV in sunlight. And that’s a problem. Pesticides with Bt exposed to full sun rapidly lose their effectiveness in one to four days. Nearly 60 percent of the potency is lost in the first 24 hours. This is a significant issue for farmers who need to control insect pests for an extended period of time.

EcoPesticides is currently developing a “sunscreen” to shield biologic-based pesticides and herbicides—including those containing Bt—from UV damage. We have developed a technique for enrobing spores and other naturally occurring insect toxins in a biopolymer that delivers enhanced UV protection, thereby extending the potency and effectiveness of the pesticide.

So far we are able to produce uniform microencapsulated spores better able to withstand UV degradation. The microencapsulated spheres offer better plant coverage, hence more deadly bait for pests. Thus far, our lab tests are showing promising results in extending potency in high UV conditions.

Our microencapsulation technology platform could be that biologic sunscreen makers of biopesticides and bioherbicides have been waiting for. If you’d like to learn more, we invite you to contact us.


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