The Future Of Food, With Fewer Pesticides: Thanks Surfactants
    By News Staff | June 8th 2014 03:30 AM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Agricultural science has made magnificent strides in the last few decades. Where once was rampant concern about mass starvation and food riots, farmers in developed nations are now producing more food on more land than once thought possible.

    But the quest to use even fewer pesticides continues. Products need to protect plants against fungal and insect attack but the goal is to do that with fewer negative effects on the environment. Researchers are working to improve plant protection and one strategy is optimizing the interaction between the plant's barrier, plant protection products and adjuvants that are added to increase the effect of plant protection. 

    Recent research at Malmö University has focused on the interaction between the cuticle which is the outermost layer of the plant leaf, and plant protection products and surfactants, surface-acting agents that are added to increase the effect of the plant protection product. The barrier that protects the plant and prevents uptake of foreign elements is situated in the cuticle.

    "We have known for some time that surfactants, surface-acting agents, reinforce the effect of plant protection products. But we know very little about the underlying mechanisms that affect the plant leaf barrier and thus also uptake of the active substances," commented Anton Fagerström, a researcher at Malmö University. "The barrier is highly effective and protects the plant even though it is unbelievably thin. We have developed a new model to determine how the structure of the barrier changes when surfactants and water are added at various temperatures. This increases our understanding of how surfactants act."

    Fagerström has also studied cuticle uptake of plant protection products and which properties in a mixture that affect uptake. In the future, the results of this research could enable selection of the most effective surfactant for a particular plant protection product, and the most effective plant protection product for a particular plant, thus minimizing the amounts of plant protection products used in the agricultural industry.

    "The future demands sustainable agriculture that can feed the world's ever-increasing population. To succeed, the research must continue."

    Link: Effects of surfactant adjuvants on plant leaf cuticle barrier properties by Anton Fagerström


    This is actually a really important article. Weed scientists have been talking about this for some time, and some of the revisions to enhance glyphosate function are at the surfactant level. All kinds of interesting cell-penetrating technologies in the pipeline that will allow us to use less and get better effects.

    The 'dunk and count' anti-pesticide people sure understand surfactants. Without those and gavage dosing of critters, we would never get the crazy claims about hermaphrodite frogs and getting cancer after a month.
    Hermaphrodite frogs?  Then what about this?

    Seriously, though, conflating this sort of thing with a particular transgender lady, as some silly journalist did in the Times recently, is of no help to the latter.  (According to me, that is — perhaps someone could present an alternative view.)

    The one pictured on the left is an Austrian known on stage as Conchita Wurst, who won the 2014 Eurovision song contest.

    The transgender lady had recently been criticized in the National Review.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Well, a hermaphrodite is physically both. It has been the suspect claim of one activist scientist against a pesticide. No one's ever been able to replicate the work or see the data. A guy who feels like a girl is a different thing. Gender is being redefined as a social construct whereas sex is still biological.

    If you think that anyone is likely to put any credence to a loony tongue-in-cheek comment by myself, please feel free to delete the whole lot.

    However, for your interest, that chap topped the British vote because half of it was by jury.  The popular vote from Britain was for the Polish entry.  That’s European politics for you!

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England