Cellulose nanocrystal dispersions protect reproductive buds of tree fruit from cold damage by forming a thermal barrier

Primary Author: Brent Arnoldussen

Faculty Sponsor: Matthew Whiting


Primary College/Unit: Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences

Category: Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Campus: Pullman




Every year, tree fruit growers lose money from cold damage to reproductive buds or flowers eventually become the future fruit and yield. The Food and Agriculture Organization reported that cold damage has caused more economic losses to crops than any other weather hazard. The potential losses from cold damage are predicted to increase with variable weather patterns resulting from climate change. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) represents a new generation of renewable nano-biomaterials, with many unique physical and chemical properties, including their low thermal conductivity. Our team has synthesized a CNC dispersion that can be sprayed onto trees, forming a thin and durable insulating film on the surface of the buds. Thermal image analysis shows apple and cherry buds treated with 3% CNC dispersions lose 16.5% less thermal energy into the environment in cold conditions than the control. As such, analysis of internal freezing events of CNC coated apple buds with digital scanning calorimetry showed that lethal freezing occurred 3.2°C lower than in the control 1 day after application and 5.5°C lower after 3 days. Large scale field test of 2.5% CNC solutions applied using a commercially available orchard sprayer showed that CNC treated trees are given 5.8°C of protection as long as 7 days post application. The results of this work suggest that the use of CNC could represent an advancement in cold damage prevention in fruit crops. The significant and long-lasting protection offered by CNC could allow for a reduction in  economic losses from cold damage