Development of a Volatile Antibiotic Producing Fungus for Control of Soil-borne and Postharvest Diseases
Agriculture is in need of safer products to replace methyl bromide and other synthetic pesticides. Soil-borne diseases caused by 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 fresh fruit commodities are 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 purpose of this project is to develop a naturally occurring fungus into a non-toxic, effective alternative to synthetic pesticides for outdoor soil, greenhouse soil and postharvest treatments. The fungus Muscodor albus produces a mixture of low molecular weight volatile compounds that are specifically toxic to other microorganisms. This research will demonstrate the commercial potential of the biofumigant in greenhouse soil, pre-plant soil applications and postharvest disease control in citrus, pome fruit, berries and grapes. Commercial development of this biofumigant will provide an effective new tool compatible with sustainable integrated pest management and organic food production.
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