Monday, August 10, 2009

Fungus breakthrough...

Note I did not say "fungicide".  Nope, we're looking at a possible bioherbicide, and it's aimed at a major weed problem: kudzu.

Boyette first began studying Myrothecium (strain IMI 361690) in 1998, after Louisiana Tech University scientist H. Lynn Walker provided him with isolates from diseased sicklepod plants. In greenhouse experiments, spray formulations of the fungus killed 100 percent of kudzu seedlings, and 90–100 percent of older plants in outdoor trials. Disease symptoms—wilted leaves and necrotic stem lesions—appeared on the plants within 24 hours of infection. By 14 days, all but the plants’ roots were diseased.
How Myrothecium breaches the defenses of the seemingly indestructible kudzu is still being investigated. One telltale clue, though, may be its use of cell wall-degrading enzymes. Besides kudzu and sicklepod, Myrothecium attacks hemp sesbania—which is problematic in soybean crops of the southeastern United States—morningglories, pigweed, redvine, and trumpetcreeper. The last two are native perennial vines that typically infest cultivated and fallow fields, wastelands, fence rows, yards, river banks, swamps, and forests. [More]
This borders on the "organic"as preventative measures go, and represents a subtle shift in crop protection emphasis. If it succeeds in clearing up kudzu, it will make believers of many skeptics.

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