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May 7, 2009

A new kind of chemical can control crop-killing fungi with less environmental impact.


Greener pest control…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Fungicides kill a lot of things – including organisms that aren’t harming the plants they’re designed to protect. That’s why University of Saskatchewan chemist Soledade Pedras and her colleagues are working on a more targeted solution. Pedras explains that some disease-causing fungi chemically disable a plant’s natural defenses.

SOLEDADE PEDRAS (University of Saskatchewan):
With a very very simple reaction. And the pathogen makes the plant defense now totally useless.

Now, her team has developed a counter-punch: chemicals they call paldoxins, which block the fungus’ ability to disarm the plant. That allows the plant to fight off its attacker, without affecting harmless fungi in the vicinity. Early results look promising, and more tests are in the works. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.