A Volatile Antibiotic Producing Fungus for Control of Soil-Borne and Postharvest Diseases
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Agriculture is in need of safer products to replace methyl bromide and other synthetic fungicides. Soil-borne diseases caused by pathogens such as Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Verticillium and Phytophthora are a major problem in horticulture, field crop production and greenhouses causing root rots, wilts and loss of vigor and yield. Methyl bromide, a potent ozone-depleting agent being phased out by 2005, is frequently used as a soil fumigant before planting strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and other crops to control soil-borne diseases and pests. Harvested commodities such as fresh fruits are also highly susceptible to fungal decay and often require pre- or postharvest fungicide treatment to reduce losses. Many fungicides for postharvest use are being phased out due to toxicological concerns, and fungicide resistance has become widespread. The endophytic fungus Muscodor albus produces a mixture of low molecular weight volatile compounds that are toxic to other microorganisms. The Phase I research will include determination of conditions conducive to the biofumigant, identification of volatile components required for activity, evaluation of soil treatment and postharvest potential, and investigation of nutritional requirements for a commercially viable preparation. The results of this research will enable this biopesticide to be developed into a safe, biodegradable alternative to methyl bromide and synthetic fungicides for pre-plant soil treatment, greenhouse uses and postharvest fruit treatment.
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