Accelerated Research on Sprayable RNA Biopesticides

The dramatic loss of biodiversity has concerned the public and heightened social demand for chemicals pesticide-free plant agriculture, which is now seen as a major priority by governments throughout the world. RNAi-based techniques are fast advancing as a possible alternative to traditional chemical pesticides in light of this worldwide dilemma.

Study: Lab-to-Field Transition of RNA Spray Applications. Image Credit: J.AMPHON/

As written in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, Genetically Modified (GM) plants have primarily been created that express double-stranded (ds)RNA-mediated gene silencing of foreign transcripts. However, because the production of GM RNAi crops is frowned upon in many countries, GM-free exogenous RNA spray treatments have piqued scientists' and politicians' attention.

Demand for Pesticide Alternatives

The unexpected increase in demand for pesticide alternatives has accelerated research on sprayable RNA biopesticides, resulting in major technological advances and improving the prospect for field use in the near future.

The recent advancements might pave the way for a speedy lab-to-field transfer of RNA sprays, which offer innovation in sustainable food production as benign, selective, generally applicable, and cost-effective biopesticides.

The fact that the population of the planet is predicted to expand by 26% by 2050 presents a variety of problems to modern agriculture. Given this forecast, farmers will need to increase production in order to fulfill future food demands.

Agricultural pests pose a significant threat to these output levels. Pests are thought to be responsible for up to 40% of crop losses globally, with insects serving as the primary cause of damage and disease spread. Plant protection has mostly relied on the use of agrochemicals until now, but conventional insecticides contribute to ground, marine, and air pollution, and are expected to be a key contributor to an alarming loss of biodiversity globally.

2030 Agricultural Sustainability

Intergovernmental programs, such as the EU's farm-to-fork strategy (part of the European green agreement), attempt to rethink and rebuild food systems by building frameworks for agricultural sustainability, for example. By 2030, one of the main objectives is to reduce chemical pesticide usage and danger by half.

Safe "green" solutions are urgently needed to assist crop protection sustainability, regarding the political and social demand for pesticide-free agriculture. As a result, RNAi-based technologies are suggested as low-risk insecticides that might help achieve pesticide reduction and sustainability objectives.

Harnessing the mechanism of RNA interference is a possible alternative to chemical insecticides (RNAi). In a nutshell, RNAi is a well-studied biological process that controls and defends eukaryotic cells from damaging nucleic acids.

DNA and histone changes, and also chromatin remodeling, aid in post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) by blocking specific mRNA transcripts from being translated. Studies on transgene-based endogenous expression and dsRNA production in host plants, dubbed host-induced gene silencing, were popular a decade ago (HIGS).

RNAi Biological System

Using the mechanism of RNA interference as a substitute for chemical pesticides is a potential option (RNAi). In a nutshell, RNAi is a conserved biological system that controls and guards eukaryotic cells from damaging nucleic acids.

DNA and histone changes, as well as chromatin remodeling, aid post-transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS) by blocking specific mRNA transcripts from being translated. Host-induced gene silencing was a phrase used a decade ago to describe investigations on transgene-based endogenous expression and dsRNA production in host plants (HIGS).

Transgenic techniques are currently hampered by a number of significant disadvantages.

First, these methods are time-consuming, difficult, and labor-intensive, and their application is limited by the host plant's transformability.

They're also incredibly expensive; the cost of commercializing a transgenic crop, for example, is projected to be over 140 million dollars. Finally, they are only lukewarmly accepted, as public skepticism about GM plants continues to rise. Furthermore, various orders and species have varied and change needs, raising questions regarding whether this technique is useful in the field.

Do we really need pesticides? - Fernan Pérez-Gálvez

Video Credit: Ted-Ed/

Given this judgment, not only are alternatives to chemical pesticides needed but there is also growing interest in discovering alternatives to GM-based methods. The demonstration that dsRNAs efficiently induce PTGS and provide resistance to disease upon foliar application was a breakthrough.

However, the lab-to-field shift will necessitate SIGS technology modification and development to improve stability (UV, rain) and specificity (off-target hazards) under outdoor circumstances. We will examine key gains in enhancing stability and highlight the most promising approaches to further enhance SIGS for its lab-to-field transfer in this study.

RNAi originated as a key antiviral defense in plants, so it is no surprise that the majority of studies have found that RNAi is the most efficient at suppressing viral infections. HIGS-based RNAi, for example, revealed an average viral resistance of 90% across 75 investigations.

The relevance of systemic dispersion is significant because it suggests that RNA biopesticides might be potential alternatives to systemic insecticides. Furthermore, because of the transfer of RNA from leaves (application sites) to roots, foliar sprays may be able to target soil-borne illnesses, eliminating the requirement for soil-specific RNA therapies.


Rank, A., and Koch, A. (2021). Lab-to-Field Transition of RNA Spray Applications – How Far Are We? Published 15 October 2021.

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Akhlaqul Karomah

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Akhlaqul Karomah

Akhlaqul has a passion for engineering, renewable energy, science, and business development.


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