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Date: Fri, 31 Oct 1997 07:10:23 -0500
From: ARS News Service <email@example.com>
To: ARS News List <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Methyl Bromide Conference Opens
International Conference on Methyl Bromide Opens November 2
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Doris Stanley, (301) 893-6727, email@example.com
October 31, 1997
SAN DIEGO, Oct. 31--Scientists will kick off an international
conference here Nov. 2 on the search for substitutes, including harmless
natural fungi, to methyl bromide—probably the most widely used pesticide
in the world.
Methyl bromide is used to fumigate soil before planting to control
plant pathogens and weeds, as a quarantine treatment on harvested crops,
as a pest control on stored commodities, and as a structural fumigant. The
chemical is slated for ban by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on
January 1, 2001. The U.S. Clean Air Act requires the ban because methyl
bromide has been identified as an ozone depletor.
"The loss of methyl bromide will create potentially devastating
problems for agriculture globally," said Kenneth W. Vick, methyl bromide
coordinator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Each year at this
conference, scientists and industry representatives from around the world
discuss their progress on research to find potential replacements for
methyl bromide." Vick leads methyl bromide research at the Agricultural
Research Service, USDA's chief scientific research agency.
More than 300 participants from 10 countries have registered for
the 3-day conference at the Mission Valley DoubleTree Hotel here. More
than 122 scientific papers will be presented.
Along with USDA, the Methyl Bromide Alternatives Outreach in
Fresno, Calif., is again sponsoring the conference with California's Crop
Protection Coalition and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Potential alternatives to be discussed at the conference include
using harmless strains of fungi to control soilborne diseases of tomato,
applying natural microbes to fruit surfaces to fight decay-causing
organisms and identifying alternative fumigants that don't affect the
ARS scientists Robert P. Larkin and Deborah R. Fravel are using
nonpathogenic strains of the fungus Fusarium to control Fusarium wilt on
tomatoes. This disease is now controlled with methyl bromide.
"We've found that it's possible to biologically control this
devastating wilt on tomatoes. With further research, these beneficial
strains of fungi could potentially control other diseases as well," Larkin
said. He and Fravel conduct their research at ARS' Beltsville (Md.)
Agricultural Research Center.
Scientists with the ARS Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit in
Beltsville are using natural plant extracts like clove, neem and pepper to
control Fusarium wilt of chrysanthemum. The wilt, now controlled with
methyl bromide, is one of the most widespread and destructive diseases of
this major horticultural crop. John H. Bowers and James C. Locke of the
Beltsville ARS lab will detail their success with plant extracts at the
"We're also evaluating other biological agents and cultural
practices that might be used in integrated management strategies," Bowers
California strawberry growers will be particularly hard hit by the
impending ban. They rely almost exclusively on methyl bromide fumigation
to control root diseases before transplanting berry plants from the
greenhouse to the field. Frank Martin, with ARS' U.S. Agricultural
Research Station in Salinas, Calif., studies the pathogens responsible for
yield losses in strawberry fields and investigates the ecology of microbes
that colonize roots. This knowledge is needed to develop effective control
"This research is important not only for information on microbes
that decrease yield, but also for identifying beneficial microflora that
might improve root health of plants grown in nonfumigated soils," Martin
noted. "In growth chamber tests, we've identified several types of
bacteria that appear to have either beneficial or detrimental effect on
plant growth. We've just completed preliminary field trials to evaluate
their effects on plant growth and yield." Martin will report the results
at the conference.
Scott Yates, at ARS' U.S. Salinity Laboratory in Riverside,
Calif., is reviving interest in propargyl bromide, a chemical used with
chloropicrin and methyl bromide in Trizone, a fumigant developed in the
1960s. Propargyl bromide was never commercialized, in part because of the
increasing popularity of methyl bromide. The compound is not a currently
registered pesticide and its environmental behavior is relatively unknown.
"In our experiments, we found that under typical agricultural
conditions, propargyl bromide appears to pose no serious environmental
risk," Yates explained. "It degrades quickly in the soil. This would
help limit the amount of the chemical that reaches groundwater or escapes
into the atmosphere."
At the ARS Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Miami,
Fla., Raymond G. McGuire uses strains of harmless, naturally occurring
organisms to reduce postharvest decay in quarantine-treated commodities.
"Heat treatment can predispose certain fruits and vegetables to pathogen
attack," McGuire said. "But we've successfully used strains of bacteria
and yeast commonly found on fruit to fight decay organisms. These natural
organisms can be added to waxes or coatings that are now routinely applied
to improve appearance and reduce dehydration."
-------- CONTACT FOR DETAILS:
Roy Gingery, National Program Staff, USDA, ARS, Double Tree Hotel, Mission
Valley, 7450 Hazard Center Drive, San Diego, Calif., At the ARS
Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Miami, Fla.,
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