Research Projects

Research Projects

Development of polysaccharide nano vesicles loaded with microelements and / or bio-stimulants for plant nutrition Develop effective micro foliar product and modern, effective delivery system, of bio-stimulants to crops

Dr. Elena Poverenov and Dr.Hagai Yasuor (ARO)
Start: 2019 –  End: 2021

A proper and steady supply of vital nutrients to plant crops is one of the most important goals in local and global agricultural industries. This supply is usually performed through the plant roots, which has been proven as less than effective due to unwanted reactions with various soil components. The nutrients are therefore lost in great amounts with low delivery yields, and their loss continues as they are many times washed away by rainwater. An alternate strategy of delivering these nutrients through the plants’ foliage has been attempted as well, yet with only limited success. The reason for this is the plant leaves’ coating material, and its physical repellence from the applied nutrients. Side implications are also present in this strategy as the nutrients were seen to get caught in interactions with certain plant tissues which act as a sort of an anatomical obstacle. The outcome from this is low delivery yields that directly affect the availability and effectiveness of the required nutrients. Massive quantities of nutrients are therefore attempted to be delivered in the described less than ideal ways, and this brings about an economical nuisance expressed in financial losses.

This proposed research plan offers to develop a new strategy that is based on nanocapsules prepared from natural polysaccharides. These can help deliver the much-needed nutraceutical components such as microelements and biostimulants to various plants in a much more effective and targeted way. Microelements and biostimulants are given to plants at low dosages, and the use of nanocapsules can help further improve their efficiency as well as reducing the applied amount; an economic advantage. Our lab specializes in performing designed modifications on all sorts of polysaccharides, thereby allowing them to spontaneously adjust themselves into novel nanostructures through a process known as self-assembly. Preliminary experiments have already demonstrated the successfulness in forming such nanostructures with diversified encapsulation abilities of various guests (hydrophobic or hydrophilic), as well as their delivery across different microenvironments (aqueous or lipid). In terms of their capabilities, these new fabricated structures resemble liposomes (phospholipid-based encapsulating materials).

One advantage that may be discussed when using polysaccharides-based nanocapsules over liposomes stems from their defined chemical structures. Their known repetitive units enable us to rationally design and modify them, and therefore control their newly fashioned properties. Also, these polysaccharides are known to be less expensive; they are not oily or initially miscible in apolar solvents, they are extremely abundant, and they are considered as biocompatible and safe materials. The nanocapsules’ primary developed goal will be to protect the vital encapsulated components and prevent any undesirable side interactions that can potentially disturb them from diffusing into the plants. In addition to that role, the developed nanocapsules will also be able to improve the activity of various microelements and biostimulants by guiding them to specific preselected plant sites.

The collaborating company in this project (ICL) supports it and is interested in actively participating in the development of this product, which is destined for the plant nutrient market. Some of this project’s goals include:

  • Fabricating polysaccharide-based nanocapsules and characterizing them
  • Successfully encapsulating various microelements and biostimulants
  • Testing this approach’s feasibility for plant delivery
  • Studying the engaged mechanism of action
  • Optimizing and fine-tuning the nanocapsules’ physical properties as needed
  • Testing the nanocapsules’ activity on various plants in greenhouse settings
  • Developing an industrial protocol for the successful production of this product