A third of all food crops are destroyed by diseases annually, which worsens existing global food insecurity. The standard treatment with synthetic fungicides for such diseases is highly toxic, with devastating impacts on soil, crops, wildlife, and consumers. The crops become immune to the fungicides over time, ultimately leaving the plants defenseless. In hopes of solving this pressing issue, researchers at the Technion have developed an environmentally friendly, natural protective spray.

Inspired by the natural properties found in the wax crystals that present on lotus and broccoli, the SafeWax anti-adhesive spray is a biodegradable formulation made of non-toxic renewable material. It can be sprayed on any plant and has the same effects as the natural wax, organically preventing disease-bearing pathogens. It can also protect the crops from sun damage, provide UV radiation filtering, and collect water from dew condensation. 

The spray’s capabilities will be demonstrated on a grapevine by the researchers working in collaboration with colleagues from the Università di Bologna, the Institut Français de la Vigne et du Vin and BASF SE. The grapevine is highly susceptible to fungal diseases and is consequently treated with more synthetic fungicides than any other crop. As the European Union plans to prohibit the use of many fungicides due to their toxic nature, finding an alternative to protecting these plants is crucial – and SafeWax could be that solution.  

SafeWax was developed by Professor Boaz Pokroy of the Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering and Professor Ester Segal of the Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering. They received a $1.5 million grant for the solution from the European Innovation Council (EIC) Pathfinder, which supports early-stage development of new high-risk, high-reward technologies and cutting-edge breakthroughs that make a difference.