UOW scientist awarded $500k to innovate safer herbicides

UOW scientist awarded $500k to innovate safer herbicides

ARC-backed project will boost crop-yields for farmers while reducing environmental impact

University of Wollongong (UOW) Chemistry lecturer, Dr Ronald Brown has been awarded nearly $500,000 in the latest round of Australian Research Council (ARC) Early Career Industry Fellowships.

ARC Industry fellowships are designed to support innovation and facilitate the adoption, translation and commercialisation of Australian research.

Dr Brown’s fellowship aims to develop a modern toolkit for building herbicide molecules that are made up of 3D chemical building blocks containing boron and silicon. The project aims to develop herbicides that are safer and more effective that will lead to increased crop production and alleviate pressures on the agricultural sector, farmers and the environment.

Dr Brown said this project will establish a robust research partnership between UOW and Bayer CropScience (Germany) and allow academia and industry to better collaborate towards a state-of-the-art product pipeline. 

“With this funding my team will be able to develop new chemical building blocks that are better suited for interacting with biological targets. These have been less common in the agrochemical industry compared to the pharmaceutical industry, with cost efficiency playing a significant role.”

“By tailoring these building blocks to herbicidal molecules and factoring in cost while designing their synthesis – both through the intrinsic properties of boron and silicon – UOW and Bayer CropScience can design safer and more effective herbicides,” Dr Brown said.  

The project uses research strategies that have delivered successful pharmaceuticals, such as molecular shape and complexity, and applies these to crop protection to address serious challenges such as genetic resistance, which threatens the effectiveness of almost 70 percent of currently used herbicides.

Dr Brown also commented on the importance of these types of ARC Industry Fellowships in establishing a pathway for Australian academic researchers to engage with industry.

“Australia has a rich agricultural sector and establishing this partnership with Bayer CropScience – a world-leader in Crop Science innovation – will hopefully encourage further collaborations to enrich the agrochemical industry here in Australia.”

UOW is committed to addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a shared blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for everyone. Dr Brown’s research addresses Sustainable Development Goal 2: No Hunger which aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.