Biotech Updates

Bacterial Extracts to Combat Fungal Diseases

June 13, 2008

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) are using natural bacterial extracts to treat fungal diseases such as the brown rot in peaches and pecan scab. Bacterial methods to control fungi are not new, but according to the ARS scientists, the compounds they isolated from the bacteria Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus have never been used to control disease in these two commodities. Various diseases result in annual losses of more than $3.5 million for peach growers and $13 million for the pecan industry.

The bacterial extract, when applied in 6 to 12 percent dilutions, can suppress the growth of Phytophthora, which causes root and crown rots, as well as foliar and fruit infections. It is an effective and safe alternative to chemical fungicides. The scientists have submitted a patent on these treatments. They are now planning to develop the bacterial metabolites for commercial use.