A TECHNOLOGY that creates a product that is a fungicide, an insecticide and a fertiliser. Sounds too good to be true, right?
Not according to the team at start-up agriculture technology business Calix, who are hoping that promising experimental commercial scale trial results using sprays containing so-called ‘nanoparticles’, particles containing high levels of energy, are replicated.
The technology involves heating ground minerals, leaving a porous, energy rich particle.
“We use a patented kiln process where the minerals are ground, then quickly heated to around 800 degrees,” said Calix managing director Phil Hodgson.
“This forces gases, such as carbon dioxide out, leaving a honey-comb-like structure.”
Dr Hodgson said this chemical process could have big implications for the agriculture sector.
Calix’s Booster Mag foliar spray, featuring kiln treated magnesium has shown promising results as both a fertiliser and in dispelling insect pests and fungal diseases.
“The magnesium oxide in the spray contains a nanoparticle physical structure,” Dr Hodgson said.
“The results, which we have conducted in Australia on tomato and cucurbit (cucumber family) crops, are showing the spray has good anti-fungal properties.”
“We are using the trials as the data for our push for APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority) approval for the product.”
He said the registration would be sought as an insect and disease repellant.
“The spray would be for prophylactic use, in trials we have found it does not kill the pests but it can help control them.”
“We hope to have a submission ready by March next year.”
However, Dr Hodgson concedes he is at a loss as to exactly how the spray creates the beneficial pest control outcomes.
“We haven’t nailed the mechanism, we’re talking to farmers across the country who may be interested to participate in further work so we can get more data.”
While the Calix data is incomplete at present, the scientific community as a whole is working on similar projects, where research is ongoing into the use of nanoparticles as a means of creating more efficient insecticide products.
Dr Hodgson said there were several theories.
“In terms of its insecticide properties, it may be that the nanoparticles have a dehydrating impact on the pests.”
“Regarding the anti-fungal properties, a theory is that the spray does not allow fungus spores to create tendrils which are instrumental in spreading the disease, but we are not certain.”
As well as the Australian work, Calix has conducted trials in the Philippines and in France, where Booster Mag has been used on grape and maize crops.
As well as the pest management benefits, Dr Hodgson said the spray had better understood benefits to the plant as a fertiliser due to the magnesium content.
Calix’s plant is at Bacchus Marsh, in Victoria and Dr Hodgson said the company had the capability to product 50,000 tonnes of the Booster Mag slurry concentrate which is then diluted for the foliar spray.
He said he estimated the spray would retail at around $4/kg for the concentrate, with application rates of around 3kg/ha for tomato crops.
The company is hoping to use its nanoparticle technology in other industries, such as waste water management and aquaculture.