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Agronomy, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Seed Science Center

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Published Version

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Scientific Reports



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Biological control of bacteria with bacteriophages is a viable alternative to antibiotics. To be successful, biological control bacteriophages must be stable when exposed to the environment. Stabilization can be achieved through incorporation of bacteriophages into polymers and stabilizers that will be coated onto the seed. For this study, bacteriophages against Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. nebraskensis (Cmn), the causal agent of Goss’s wilt, were incorporated into polyvinyl polymers with alcohol, ether and pyrrolidone functional groups and coated onto maize (Zea mays L.) seeds. The objectives of this study were to evaluate polymers and stabilizers that can protect Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. nebraskensis (CN8) bacteriophages against dehydration during storage. Bacteriophages stability when coated on seed depended on the glass transition temperature (Tg), functional groups of the polymer, and the presence of stabilizers such as sugars and proteins. Polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) provided the greatest stability for CN8 bacteriophages on seed when coatings did not contain a stabilizer. A possible reason for the greater stability of this coating is having a glass transition temperature (Tg) very close to ambient temperature. PVOH combined with whey protein isolate (WPI) maintained CN8 bacteriophage activity in storage for four months at 26 °C and seven months at 10 °C. This coating also significantly reduced bacterial loads in seedlings grown from contaminated seeds, without affecting seed germination. Bacteriophage-polymer coatings which are stable during drying and storage, and are compatible with biological systems, not only provide an alternative to traditional antibiotics in agriculture, but also provide options for food, environmental and medical applications.


This article is published as Kimmelshue, C., Goggi, A.S. & Cademartiri, R. The use of biological seed coatings based on bacteriophages and polymers against Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. nebraskensis in maize seeds. Sci Rep 9, 17950 (2019) doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-54068-3.

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