We are proud to introduce our new PhD student Benjamin W. Moorlach. He has been with us since his master’s thesis in Molekulare Biotechnologie at University Bielefeld, in which he investigated diffusion processes in biocompatible hydrogels for the entrapment of microalgae. Since then he has worked in various projects as a research assistant in our working group.
During his PhD work, he will develop novel formulation materials and methods for double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), an environmentally sustainable alternative to chemical pesticides for crop protection. In contrast to conventional pesticides, dsRNA only affects specific pest, so that useful insects, such as pollinators, remain unharmed. The new formulations will increase the stability of dsRNA and deliver dsRNA effectively and efficiently to plant leaves.
The BioProtect project is supported by the SusCrop and carried out in cooperation with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Strasbourg France, University of Helsinki in Finland, and the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany.
The SusCrop-funded project BioProtect, focusing on the development of new formulations, to improve stability and efficacy for double‑stranded RNA, an environmentally sustainable pesticide, has recently started. Crop damages can be caused by invertebrate, fungal, and viral pests, which can all be targeted by dsRNA. In contrast to conventional pesticides, dsRNA is target specific and reduces negative side effects to the environment.
The fascinating task of our PhD student Benjamin Moorlach and our working group will be the development of novel formulations to increase the stability of dsRNA and deliver dsRNA effectively and efficiently to plant leaves. The dsRNA will then unleash its potential inside the plant cells, to reduce plant pests by RNA interference.
A brief overview of production and envisioned application of dsRNA pesticides and RNA interference is shown in the figure below.
BioProtect project partners are the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Strasbourg France, the University of Helsinki in Finland, and the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany.
Since 17th May, Anja Laufkötter joined as a PhD student at the Department of Engineering and Mathematics. In the research group Fermentation and Formulation of Biologicals and Chemicals by Prof. Dr. Anant Patel, she is working on the research project “HOPE – Development of Holistic Formulation Methods for Biological Plant Protection of Berry Fruits”. The aim of her research is to develop new Attract & Kill formulations with entomopathogenic fungi to control soilborne white grubs. In the summer of 2020, she finished her Master’s degree in “Molecular Biotechnology” at Bielefeld University in the field of Algae Biotechnology. Her thesis dealt with the nuclear transformation of the protist Euglena gracilis. Through a previous project in the working group, Mrs Laufkötter has gained initial experience in the development of formulations and was particularly enthusiastic about the interdisciplinary aspects of the research.
We are a bit late to report that our group hosted the first online annual meeting of our working group Biological Plant Protection of the German Phytomedical Society. The program featured findings in the following
Control of soil-borne pathogens
New insights into the mode of action of biological control agents
Microbial ecology and biological control
Plant microbiome and its importance for plant health
Efficacy of biological products
Novel formulation and application approaches
120 participants with 50 % coming from industry set a new record for our meeting. 34 oral presentations were discussed lively and illustrated the complexity of R&D and practical challenges in biological plant protection. Dr. Desiree Jakobs-Schönwandt decided to implement break-out sessions in Zoom to bring participants together in the short breaks of the tightly packed program. We were satisfied to see that this was well received. The discussions of the presentations, the meetings in the break out rooms, the online get together with presentation from the companies and the final discussion clearly demonstrated the impact that this group can generate for current challenges in biological plant protection in view of the Green Deal and Farm2Fork strategy of the EU. Some major topics were the need to improve communication of successes to farmers and policy makers, the still very high registration costs, the use of microbial consortia and the specificity of microorganisms. The majority of participants expressed their wish for this group to take a more proactive role in the advancement and implementation of novel biological plant protection measures in Germany.
Since 18th of May 2021, Paul Helm is working as a new research associate in our group. As part of the research project “Development of holistic formulation methods for the biological plant protection of berry fruits” (HOPE), he will develop novel, innovative formulations for insect viruses as part of his PhD. These viruses will be released in the insect gut of the fruit pest Drosophila suzukii and thus effectively protect berry fruits such as blueberries and strawberries.
Paul Helm is the first pharmacist in Prof. Patel’s working group and studied at Philipps University in Marburg. Prior to his employment here in Bielefeld, the licensed pharmacist worked in a local pharmacy and at Fresenius Kabi, among others. We are very much looking forward to work with him.