A novel biological control for fungal plant pathogens
Plants are under almost constant attack by fungal pathogens in the environment and economic losses are a frequent consequence of this assault. To avoid or reduce economic loss, synthetic chemical fungicides have been traditionally used to keep the development of disease in check. However, the impact of chemical pesticides on the environment and human health can be harmful; this impact has been well-documented. Chemical fungicides can contaminate water, air, and soil and can have lasting harmful effects on aquatic life, birds, mammals, and beneficial insects such as bees. Further, fungi can become resistant to many chemicals requiring the use of higher doses to obtain effective control. As a result, there is increased demand for safe and effective alternatives to chemical pesticides. Protection from fungal diseases is particularly challenging for organically grown specialty crops (fruits, vegetables, nursery, and greenhouse crops). BioWorks proposes to investigate a novel biological control (biocontrol) agent (a strain of the newly described species of bacterium, Streptomyces scopuliridis) for control of fungal pathogens. BioWorks has already demonstrated that S. scopuliridis strain RB72 has activity in Petri dish assays against a number of fungal pathogens, including Phytophthora, Pythium, Fusarium, and Rhizoctonia. This research will examine the effectiveness of S. scopuliridis RB72 to control diseases caused by these pathogens on plants in growth chamber and greenhouse environments. We anticipate that this bacterial strain will be an effective biocontrol agent against several fungal pathogens, and believe this technology could easily translate to the commercial market. The resulting commercial product will both compete against and reduce reliance upon synthetic agrochemicals currently used to treat plants. Furthermore, this biocontrol agent will appeal to the growing organic agriculture sector as well as individual consumers that are looking to reduce their use of toxic or petrochemical-based gardening products.
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