NCSU is seeking an industry partner to commercialize specific combinations of bio-control agents to enhance agronomically important traits such as growth and disease resistance in commercial crops
The question of how to feed the worlds growing population is becoming increasingly important and features highly on the agenda of many countries. By 2050, the population of the world is set to rise to 9 billion people and current food production rates will need to double in order to fulfill the increased demand. One way to deal with this issue is through finding and developing novel approaches to manage pests, invasive plant species and disease. It is estimated that between 10-16% of the global harvest is lost due to plant diseases, costing an estimated US$220 billion each year. Historically, plant diseases have been controlled by chemical formulations but in more recent years it has become clear that the use of these chemicals may have a detrimental and long lasting effect on the environment. Pesticides and fungicides have been linked to a wide range of human health hazards, ranging from short-term impacts such as headaches and nausea to chronic impacts like cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption. As a result, obtaining environmental protection agency (EPA) approval is increasingly more difficult and there is a drive towards more organic methods of farming. Organic farming relies on techniques such as crop rotation and biological control agents (BCAs) such as biofungicides and biofertilizers comprising microbial and fungal preparations. However, a very limited number of organisms have been developed for this purpose and there is a critical need to identify more species which are specific to certain crops.
Researchers at NCSU have identified Trichoderma and Bacillus species which act as biological control agents (BCAs) against Rhizoctonia spp. and Pythium irregulare, two of the key organisms which cause strawberry black root rot (SBRR). Use of these BCAs can result in up to 90% reduction in disease incidence. Additionally research has identified that certain combinations of these isolates can both control disease and promote growth of strawberries and other commercially relevant crops, in particular those which suffer from black root rot and other soil borne diseases.
- Fungal and bacterial species, which can be used solely or in combination, to promote growth of plants and inhibit the infection of soil borne pathogens
- Biofertilizer/fungicides reduce the requirement for chemical fertilizer/fungicide treatments which can have harmful effects on the environment.
- Fungal isolates produce chlamydospores which makes them impervious to environmental challenges producing a product with a longer shelf life.
About the Inventors
Andrea Torres-Barragan achieved her PhD from Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), Mexico City, and is a post-doctoral scholar in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NCSU.
Frank Louws is Professor of plant pathology at North Carolina State University. He joined the NCSU faculty in 1996. Dr. Louws develops extension and research programs emphasizing integrated pest management and sustainable agricultural principles and practices for growers of small fruits and vegetables. His work addresses production agriculture questions combined with fundamental biological questions. His extension programs address key industry disease problems in strawberry, pepper, tomato, greenhouse vegetable production and organic production. Dr. Louws is Director of the National Science Foundation Center for Integrated Pest Management. The Center manages International, National, Regional and Local IPM projects. See http://www.cipm.info/.