A University of Central Florida researcher’s nanoscale cocktail that is showing signs of slowing a deadly citrus disease that has put one of the state’s largest and most iconic industries at risk, has been named a finalist for two major research and development awards.
Zinkicide, a bactericide invented by Swadeshmukul Santra, associate professor in the NanoScience Technology Center at UCF, is up for both a prestigious international agribusiness award and for an R&D 100 award, otherwise known as the “Oscars of Innovation.”
“The global recognition for the potential of Zinkicide to help stop one of the worst problems ever faced by the citrus industry is encouraging,” Santra said. “Of course our priority is to move Zinkicide into mass production and international distribution as quickly as possible to save as many trees and groves as we can.”
Zinkicide is one of three finalists in the 2016 Agrow Awards’ Best Formulation Innovation category. UCF is the only university among the finalists in 15 categories, ranking among industry giants Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Crop Protection, and BASF. The awards, recognized as the most prestigious recognition in the crop-protection industry, will be announced in London on Sept. 21.
The R&D 100 awards represent one of the highest honors in the research and design community for more than 50 years. Recipients typically come from industries, national laboratories and universities for products or discoveries that are judged as some of the greatest inventions of the year.
The 2016 R&D 100 awards will be announced Nov. 3 in Washington.
The effort to halt the spread of citrus greening is facing increasing urgency among growers who are reeling over recent predictions of a 26 percent decline in Florida’s orange crop for the 2016-17 season.
The disease is technically called Huanglongbing and is caused by a bacterium that destroys fruit production and eventually kills the tree. The bacteria are carried by a tiny Asian insect that feeds on the leaves and stems of infected trees and carries the infection to new trees that eventually die.
Santra’s nanopotion is designed to kill the bacteria without harming the tree. It is designed to break down as a micronutrient and be metabolized by the plant after the bacteria are destroyed.
In April, the USDA awarded the University of Florida a $4.6 million grant to test the effectiveness of Santra’s Zinkicide. UCF received $1.4 million of the grant to conduct specific research on the formulation and application.
While the Agrow award would be a first for UCF, this is the third year in a row the university has been represented in the R&D 100 competition.
Jayan Thomas, also a UCF nanoscientist, received the award in 2015 for his portable self-sustainable energy source. In 2014, UCF – together with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center – was recognized with an award to HySense Technology, a startup company recently acquired by Nitto Denko Corp., for developing a chemically sensitive tape that changes color in the presence of dangerous hydrogen leaks.