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Cellulose NanoCrystals for Preventing Frost Damage in Tree fruits and Grapes

Funding Agency: USA NIFA
WSU Investigators: Qin Zhang; Changki Mo; Mathew Whiting, and Xiao Zhang

The goal of this research is to synthesize a novel Cellulose NanoCrystals (CNC) based dispersion that can be applied as a spray agent on tree fruit buds to prevent the frost damage. Low temperature damage to plant tissues poses a serious perennial threat to the sustainable and profitable production of many specialty crops. Indeed, a single freeze or frost event can result in crop losses in the millions, literally overnight. A recent breakthrough at Washington State University has yielded a unique opportunity for using CNC to protect sensitive fruit tree buds. This research has the potential to create a significant new market for CNC requiring commercial production and distribution of large volumes – the projected annual demand for CNC applied at 2 to 4 kg/acre to apple and sweet cherry in Washington State alone is compelling at 500 to 1000 tons. A multi-disciplinary team encompassing expertise in horticulture, agriculture, chemistry, chemical engineering and mechanical engineering has been
assembled to conduct this demonstration project. The expected outcomes of this innovative project will include a means to quantify the thermal properties of the Cellulose NanoCrystals (CNC), an effective spraying method for tree fruit bud application, and relationship between cold-hardiness and CNC treatment.