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ARS Home » Research » Research Project #441658

Research Project: Insecticidal Nanoparticles

Location: Foreign Arthropod Borne Animal Disease Research

Project Number: 3022-32000-025-001-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Mar 1, 2022
End Date: Sep 30, 2025

The objective is to define and optimize the use of nanoparticles as insecticides for significant agricultural insect pests. The biodegradable nanoparticles consist of two parts a core and an outer surface coating and either part can be insecticidal, an attractant, or used as a shield to reduce the insecticidal active ingredient from environmental or biological degradation. This project will determine the optimal formulation of the particles which includes existing or new active ingredients and deployment methods of this technology which may include absorption by the organism to be protected, environmental treatments, or other novel methods that may be developed.

The USDA and Cooperator are engaged in research addressing the development of novel nanoparticle based pesticides, which are vital to US farmers due to the impact of arthropods on American agriculture. New biodegradable nanoparticle technology can be applied in many ways to agricultural pests depending on (1) formulation, (2) active ingredients and attractants, (3) deployment and (4) reactive nanoparticles. This project will target significant agricultural pests to reduce their populations below an economic damage or epidemic transmission threshold in the case of pathogen transmission. (1) Formulation will include creating the nanoparticles using various solvents and optimizing how to get the cores or coatings to have the maximum and a quantifiable amount of active ingredient in them. This testing will be done in the laboratory with scalability and cost as vital considerations. (2) Active ingredients will be the insecticidal materials used in the core or coating. These can include organic, inorganic, synthetic, and natural product insecticidal active ingredients and how they synergize with the attractants that can also be placed in the core or coating. Currently evaluated nanoparticle formulation and active ingredients include silver, copper, gold, Spinosad, Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), and curcumin. Attractants can be to the target insect pest or for animal or plant update for systemic application of the nanoparticles in the host to protect against feeding insects. Tested attractants have included maiz, sorghum, and wheat. (3) Deployment is how the nanoproducts will be used in the field. Various methods will be explored including systemic treatments and topical treatments as well as environmental treatments. Novel methods should include hydrogels or other types of baits. (4) Reactive nanoparticles are AI cores and a coating or coatings that react to environmental stimulus to open and expose the insecticidal core. One example of this is the pH sensitive Bti crystals, when exposed in the insect midgut to the basic environment, the crystals dissolve and kill the insect. This specific response to basic midguts makes the Bti crystals dipteran specific. Similar specific environmental stimuli such as exposure to pH, ultraviolet light, moisture, or biotic processes such as digestion in the insects will result in exposure of the AI core. Several layers of reactive coatings may be evaluated. The environmental fate of the particles will be tracked to reduce environmental contamination and non-target insect affects. These four areas will be combined in laboratory, green house, and field trials to determine the optimal nanoparticle formulation and methods of use.