AWC - Funded Research

Nanocarrier technology for the next generation of cereal seed Treatments

AWC contribution: $120,000


Our aim is to develop seed coat technology containing nanocarrier complexed RNAi for the suppression of smut and bunt diseases in cereals. Such technology will reduce our dependency on toxic fungicides, resulting in healthier soil microbiomes. This technology will also facilitate the use of beneficial fungal endophytes. Additionally, we will develop in parallel seed coatings to suppress plant genes. This technology will allow alteration of seedling phenotypes for desirable agronomic traits.


To use Cell Penetrating Peptide (CPP) nanocarriers together with RNAi for the suppression of smut and bunt diseases in cereals. Also, to develop seed coating technology containing CPP-RNAi for modulation of plant genes during early seedling development.

Benefits to producers:

Knowledge on plant-microbe interactions and cell biotechnology will be applied to wheat and barley seeds to develop the next generation of seed treatments. An immediate impact of the proposed work will be development of novel seed treatment technologies that can be used to either facilitate or block microbe colonization in the early days after seed germination. AAFC’s CPP technology will be applied for such purposes. Our preliminary experiments will determine which CPPs are the most effective at delivering dsRNAs for targeted suppression for pathogenic fungi. This work will provide guidelines for developing seed coatings containing CPP-complexed RNAi. Including the use of RNAi to suppress pathogens together with the addition of beneficial microbes as seed treatments is a future direction for seed companies that will have an overall positive impact on agriculture and the environment. As new beneficial microbes enter the market, like Indigo WheatTM for example, the proposed research will offer a highly valuable complementary technology. Unlike with breeding, seed treatments can be modified and adapted very quickly allowing improvements to be made in the performance of existing germplasm. RNAi offers the potential to control pests and to modify early seedling behavior, thus giving producers a powerful means to maximize yields.


Dr. John Laurie is a Research Scientist with AAFC-Lethbridge. He is from the Edmonton area and prior to joining AAFC, did postdoctoral research in the U.S.A. and at the University of Cambridge in England. John holds a PhD in Botany from the University of British Columbia and is an expert in plant and fungal genomics. His current research efforts are focused on improving cereals using biotechnology, but in a broader sense, John is interested in natural processes driving genetic variation in nature.