Zein Nanoparticles as Eco-Friendly Carrier Systems for Botanical Repellents Aiming Sustainable Agriculture
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Botanical repellents represent one of the main ways of reducing the use of synthetic pesticides and the contamination of soil and hydric resources. However, the poor stability and rapid degradation of these compounds in the environment hinder their effective application in the field. Zein nanoparticles can be used as eco-friendly carrier systems to protect these substances against premature degradation, provide desirable release characteristics, and reduce toxicity in the environment and to humans. In this study, we describe the preparation and characterization of zein nanoparticles loaded with the main constituents of the essential oil of citronella (geraniol and R-citronellal). The phytotoxicity, cytotoxicity, and insect activity of the nanoparticles toward target and nontarget organisms were also evaluated. The botanical formulations showed high encapsulation efficiency (>90%) in the nanoparticles, good physicochemical stability, and effective protection of the repellents against UV degradation. Cytotoxicity and phytotoxicity assays showed that encapsulation of the botanical repellents decreased their toxicity. Repellent activity tests showed that nanoparticles containing the botanical repellents were highly repellent against the Tetranychus urticae Koch mite. This nanotechnological formulation offers a new option for the effective use of botanical repellents in agriculture, reducing toxicity, protecting against premature degradation, and providing effective pest control.
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