Pushing and Pulling into the Future

Finally, life seems to gain some shades of normality. We all had to adapt to the new reality imposed since the beginning of the pandemic, but now it is possible to enjoy the summer days sitting on a park bench or on grass, having some ice cream, meeting friends in small groups, or simply being outside. This is quite calming and comforting, however I still have some concerns about people living in countries where the disease keeps spreading without control. People are suffering from the lack of infrastructure and treatment in places as Brazil, my home country, which at this moment is becoming Covid-19 world’s epicenter.

Over the year, I faced several challenges, but in this final report I am happy to share with you the objective that I achieved and the further actions of my project. Just a short recall, the goal was to develop push-and-pull strategies, which consist of behavioral manipulation of insects by the integration of a repellent that makes the host plant unattractive to the pest (push stimulus), while luring it toward an attractive source (pull stimulus), e.g., located in a sticky trap. Nevertheless, the major obstacle of this application was that those odors are highly volatile, which reduces efficacy over more extended periods in field conditions. So, I propose the innovative method of encapsulation of those odors in nanofibers to increase the thermal stability and limited their volatility.

Polymeric nanofibers presented an excellent release rate being able to deliver repellent synthetic odors and essential oils as well. Moreover, I have observed that even after several weeks, it kept delivering the expected volatiles. When I incorporated attractant odors to nanofibers, we have also observed that the volatiles were attractive to pear psyllids in a laboratory test. It looks like I’m on the right track of producing efficient nanofibers dispensers of odors for managing insects, and the outcomes from this work reinforce that research involving nanotechnology can and should be further explored.

All this background and lab research that I performed during this year provided me the knowledge that I needed to take the next steps to continue the project. All those experiments served as a base for the field dispensers’ prototypes that I will develop next month. Since summer is still beginning in Germany, I have just enough time to bring the first version of the nano dispensers to a real situation in field tests with attractants and repellents to see how they perform in real conditions. The results obtained in this season will guide and prepare me for improvements for a second round of tests next spring. Besides that, I am really proud to say that the nanofibers I produced are entirely biodegradable and nontoxic, which increases the value and the environmental relevance of this type of technology to further developments in the field of crop protection. So far, nanofibers have demonstrated great potential for creating new tools to be used in agricultural applications.

That is my last report, but not my last effort on this project. I have made significant progress during this whole year with the financial support and coaching provided of the IUPAC Next Generation program, which was definitive to succeed in this project. I am looking forward and hoping that in 2021 I can engage and present the results of this project to a scientific public if the pandemic keeps under control. The conclusion of this project, for me, is just the beginning of a long quest to explore innovative options to boost agricultural production and to integrate it to environmental sustainability.

Bruna Czarnobai de Jorge – N-GAGE Champion

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