Natural Plant Extracts Could Be Methyl Bromide Substitute
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
March 3, 1999
Doris Stanley Lowe, (301) 893-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org
A chemical in peaches could become an alternative to methyl bromide for
controlling certain soil-dwelling pathogens. Methyl bromide, a chemical now
used worldwide on more than 100 crops, has been linked to ozone depletion
and will be banned in the United States in 2005. Methyl bromide is critical
to agriculture as a soil fumigant, a postharvest storage treatment, and a
quarantine treatment to control many pests on various crops.
In preliminary studies, Agricultural Research Service scientists are
studying natural plant chemicals as alternatives. One that looks promising
is benzaldehyde. Found in peaches and other fruit, benzaldehyde is a
naturally occurring colorless, nontoxic, aromatic liquid used in perfumes,
flavorings, pharmaceuticals and dyes.
ARS plant pathologist Charles Wilson at the ARS Appalachian Fruit Research
Station in Kearneysville, W.Va., found that benzaldehyde controls several
soil pathogens, including Fusarium oxysporum, Rhizoctonia solani, Pythium
aphanidermatum and Sclerotinia minor. Wilson is working with Debra Fravel of
the ARS Biocontrol of Plant Diseases Laboratory, Beltsville, Md. ARS is
USDA's chief scientific research agency.
Benzaldehyde is inexpensive and breaks down into products that aren't
harmful to humans, animals or the environment. Wilson and colleagues found
that soil fumigated with benzaldehyde initially had significantly lower pH
values. But within two weeks, the pH returned to nonfumigated levels. This
showed that changes in soil pH are readily reversed and shouldn't interfere
with crop production.
The scientists have applied for a patent on a time-release formula of
benzaldehyde to fumigate fruit, grain and soil. Wilson and collaborators
from the Volcani Center in Bet Dagan, Israel and the Fruit, Vine and Wine
Research Institute, Agricultural Research Council, Stellenbosch, South
Africa, have also found a number of other compounds that are effective
against soilborne pathogens.
A story on this research is featured in the March 1999 Agricultural Research
magazine. It can be accessed on the Internet at:
Scientific contact: Charles A. Wilson, ARS Appalachian Fruit Research
Station, Kearneysville, W.Va.; phone (304) 725-3451, X330; fax (304)
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