Biotech Updates

AU Government Backs Research on Preventing Crop Frost Damage Using “Ice Nucleating” Bacteria

March 9, 2022

Jaco Zandberg at work in the lab. Photo from the University of Western Australia.

A scientist from the University of Western Australia was awarded the 2022 Science and Innovation Award by the Australian government, which will provide funds for his research on preventing crop frost damage using bacteria. The research aims to alleviate frost damage in Australian crops, which costs farmers AU$400 million each year.

Jaco Zandberg is a molecular biologist who helped identify Pseudomonas, a bacteria linked to severe frost damage in grain crops. Pseudomonas produces a protein that raises the freezing point of water. This raises the temperature at which frost damage can occur in the environment, at -2°C rather than at -8°C to -10°C.

Zandberg and his team plan to explore the possibility of having the Pseudomonas' vesicles, the bacteria's nanostructures that bud out of and into bacterial cell membranes, carry interference molecules that will temporarily shut down the production of the ice-nucleating proteins. The end goal is to produce a form of spray using the novel technology that farmers can use on their crops when a frost event is forecasted. The spray is meant to suppress the ice nucleating activity, and then all goes back to normal once the frost event is over and temperatures are normal.

To know more about the project, read the news release from the University of Western Australia.

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