Researchers at MIT have developed phytoinjectors that can deliver nutrients, drugs, or other molecules to specific parts of a plant.

Engineers with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are working on a solution to diseases that affect a plant’s circulatory systems which cannot be treated by applying pesticides. Termed phytoinjectors, the technology is an array of microneedles that could be useful in the fight against citrus greening, according to a Citrus Industry article. The development was published in the journal Advanced Science. See the details below.

Phytoinjectors and Citrus Greening

Phytoinjectors are “made of a silk-based biomaterial to deliver nutrients, drugs, or other molecules to specific parts of the plant,” according to the article. They utilize an array of microneedles to access the plant’s roots, stems or leaves, or its xylem or phloem to either treat pathogens or sample biomarkers. The idea for the technology came from precision medicine for humans.

The article maintains that the work was initiated via a request by the USDA for ideas on solving the crisis created by citrus greening. While not stated in the article, a phytoinjector may be a solution for the delivery of bactericides, a chemical to kill the bacteria that cause citrus greening. Researchers found great results with bactericides, but those results have not carried over into the citrus grove.

One theory for the lack of results with bactericides is that they were not being applied to the phloem of the citrus trees where the bacteria reside for the most part. Researchers have been looking for other ways to deliver bactericides to citrus trees. A phytoinjector could well be the solution.

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