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According to the FAO, plant diseases cost the global economy around 210€ billion per year, and fungal pathogens destroy at least a third of all food crops annually. Commercial agriculture relies on chemical fungicides for crop protection owing to their easy application and low cost; however, their overuse and misuse have devastating implications for all living systems and the entire ecosystem.

Inspired by superhydrophobic plants, such as lotus and broccoli, which exhibit wax crystals on their cuticles, SafeWax develops a generic sustainable strategy for passive crop protection against fungal pathogens. Our biomimetic technology, termed SafeWax, relies on bioderived wax-based sprayable formulations which self-assemble into a multifaceted protective coating with antiadhesive, self-cleaning and antifungal properties. When applied on sensitive crops, which do not naturally exhibit wax crystals, SafeWax will synthetically render their foliage to passively resist pathogens. SafeWax concepts will initially be demonstrated on grapevine, as a relevant model crop of high importance to Europe’s economy, environment and culture, which is highly susceptible to fungal diseases and is the most-frequently treated crop. SafeWax will then be expanded to other sensitive commodity crops. The biodegradable SafeWax coating will not only protect crops from fungal infections but will also be tuned to provide UV radiation filtering, prevent sun damage, as well as facilitate water collection from dew condensation, mitigating inevitable effects of climate change.

SafeWax will revolutionize the global fungicides market (valued > 20 billion €), starting from the biofungicide market with a value of 3,2 billion € by 2.

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