New R&D Agreement Aims at Natural Controls for Plant Fungi
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Sarah Tarshis, (301) 504-1611, email@example.com
August 16, 1999
Zosteric acid, a natural product made by a common seagrass, may lead to a
nontoxic way to protect strawberries and other crops from fungal diseases.
Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service--USDA's chief scientific
arm--are exploring the acid as an environmentally safe alternative to
Zosteric acid is found in eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) that grows in many
saltwater bays and harbors. Under a new Cooperative Research and Development
Agreement, ARS and PhycoGen, Inc., Portland, Me., will evaluate zosteric
acid against fungi that cause fruit and crown rot of strawberries.
Fungal pathogens rely on spores to infect a plant or fruit, but spores must
first attach to a leaf or fruit surface and then germinate to cause
infection. Unlike chemical fungicides, zosteric acid doesn't kill fungi;
rather, it may act as a shield, preventing spores from attaching. This mode
of action would be environmentally safe and would sidestep the risk of fungi
developing chemical resistance.
David Wedge of ARS' Natural Products Utilization Research Lab in Oxford,
Miss., will conduct laboratory studies with strawberries and blueberries,
and Barbara Smith with ARS in Poplarville, Miss., will also conduct
greenhouse studies. Kenneth Curry of the University of Southern Mississippi
will work with the ARS team to examine zosteric acid's antifungal features.
Randall Alberte of PhycoGen will conduct lab studies on strawberries.
Most research to develop fungicides is done by industry and focuses on major
crops. But the ARS research will benefit small farmers who often grow
so-called "minor crops." While grown on relatively few acres, minor crops
are worth about $31 billion annually to U.S. growers and are economically
vital to many rural communities and family farms.
PhycoGen, which manufactures zosteric acid, will also cooperate with ARS to
develop a product to protect stored seeds from fungi. The company is also
exploring the acid as a marine antifouling agent for boat hulls and other
Scientific contact: David Wedge, ARS Natural Products Utilization Research
Unit, National Center for Natural Product Research, University, MS 38677,
phone (601) 232-1137, fax (601) 232-1035, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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