Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed nanoparticles made from plant viruses that can deliver pesticide molecules deep into the soil. This innovation could help farmers combat parasitic nematodes that damage crops while reducing costs, pesticide usage, and environmental harm. The nanoparticles were designed to address the challenge of reaching the root level where nematodes are found. Currently, pesticides used against nematodes tend to stay on the top layers of soil, which leads to excessive pesticide use and contamination of soil and groundwater. The researchers modified tobacco mild green mosaic viruses to create noninfectious nanoparticles that can move through soil easily. They mixed these nanoparticles with pesticide solutions, creating spherical virus-like nanoparticles packed with pesticides. This one-pot synthesis method is cost-effective and preserves the original chemical structure of the pesticide. The researchers conducted lab experiments that showed the nanoparticles successfully transported pesticides to depths of at least 10 centimeters and effectively eliminated nematodes. While further testing is needed, this technology shows promise in combating nematodes in the soil and could be a more sustainable and effective solution for agricultural pest control.
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