New Essential Oil Hydrogels to Control Mold Growth

Jenn Hoskins
16th May, 2024

New Essential Oil Hydrogels to Control Mold Growth

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at Universidad de La Frontera developed a new method using oregano and thyme essential oils encapsulated in nanoparticles to fight harmful fungi on fruits
  • The encapsulated essential oils significantly inhibited the growth and spore germination of the fungi Botrytis cinerea and Penicillium expansum
  • This eco-friendly approach offers a safer alternative to traditional chemical fungicides, reducing health and environmental risks
The deterioration of fruits caused by phytopathogenic fungi like Botrytis cinerea and Penicillium expansum is a significant problem in agriculture, leading to substantial economic losses. Traditional chemical fungicides, while effective, pose health risks and environmental concerns. Recent research from Universidad de La Frontera presents an innovative solution using essential oil (EO) of Origanum vulgare (oregano) and Thymus vulgaris (thyme) encapsulated in solid lipid nanoparticles (SLN) and incorporated into chitosan/polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) hydrogels to combat these fungi[1]. Essential oils have shown promise as sustainable alternatives to synthetic fungicides due to their natural antifungal properties. However, their practical application is limited by volatility and poor solubility[2]. Previous studies have demonstrated the antifungal efficacy of thyme and oregano EOs against B. cinerea, with significant reductions in disease incidence on tomato crops[3]. Building on this foundation, the current study addresses the limitations of EO application by encapsulating them in SLNs, enhancing their stability and effectiveness. The study optimized the encapsulation process, achieving homogeneity values between 0.21 and 0.35 and stability ranging from -28.8 to -33.0 mV, with particle sizes between 180.4 and 188.4 nm. These parameters are crucial as they ensure the nanoparticles' uniformity and stability, making them suitable for practical use. The encapsulation of 800 and 1200 µL L-1 of EO resulted in the best particle sizes, indicating an optimal concentration for antifungal activity. The encapsulated EOs significantly inhibited the mycelial growth and spore germination of both B. cinerea and P. expansum. Specifically, the hydrogels containing EO-loaded SLNs demonstrated solid-like characteristics and elastic behavior, making them suitable for environmental application. The hydrogels inhibited spore germination by 80.9% for B. cinerea and 55.7% for P. expansum, showcasing their potential as effective antifungal agents. This approach aligns with previous findings on the environmental risks posed by synthetic fungicides[4]. By using EOs encapsulated in SLNs within hydrogels, the study presents an eco-friendly alternative that mitigates the health and environmental risks associated with traditional fungicides. The encapsulation not only enhances the stability and efficacy of EOs but also provides a controlled release mechanism, ensuring prolonged antifungal activity. The research from Universidad de La Frontera demonstrates that EO-loaded SLNs in hydrogels could revolutionize the management of postharvest fungal diseases. This method effectively combines the natural antifungal properties of EOs with advanced nanotechnology to create a sustainable and efficient solution. By addressing the volatility and solubility issues of EOs, this study paves the way for broader application in agriculture, potentially reducing the reliance on harmful synthetic fungicides and contributing to safer food production practices.

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Main Study

1) Formulation of essential oils-loaded solid lipid nanoparticles-based chitosan/PVA hydrogels to control the growth of Botrytis cinerea and Penicillium expansum.

Published 13th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Control of postharvest fungal diseases in fruits using external application of RNAi.

3) Assessing the Control of Postharvest Gray Mold Disease on Tomato Fruit Using Mixtures of Essential Oils and Their Respective Hydrolates.

4) Fungicides: An Overlooked Pesticide Class?

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