Fungal Fumes Clear Out Crop Pests
By Jan Suszkiw
February 19, 2010
A cocktail of compounds emitted by
the beneficial fungus Muscodor albus may offer a biologically based way
to fumigate certain crops and rid them of destructive pests. Thats the
indication from Agricultural Research
Service (ARS) studies in which scientists pitted Muscodor against
potato tuber moths, apple codling moths and Tilletia fungi that cause
bunt diseases in wheat.
The scientistsat ARS laboratories in Aberdeen, Idaho; Wapato, Wash.,
and other locationsconducted separate studies of Muscodor.
However, their goal was the same: to learn whether volatile organic compounds
(VOCs) released by the fungus could replace or diminish the use of synthetic
In field trials conducted since 2007, ARS plant pathologist
Goates found that treating wheat seed or the soil with a formulation of
Muscodor and ground rye completely prevented common bunt under moderate
disease conditions. Caused by the fungus T. tritici, common bunt reduces
wheat yields and grain quality. Although chemical fungicide seed treatments
have kept common bunt outbreaks to a minimum, alternative controls are worth
exploring if the chemicals lose effectiveness or are discontinued, notes
Goates, with the
Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit in Aberdeen. Results from
this study were published in the Canadian
Journal of Microbiology.
At the ARS Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory in Wapato, entomologist
Lacey and colleagues tested Muscodor against potato tuber moths,
which damage potato leaves and tubers, and apple codling moths, which feed
inside apples. In fumigation chamber tests, 85 to 91 percent of adult codling
moths died when exposed to Muscodor fumes, while 62 to 71 percent of
larvae died or failed to pupate. In apple storage tests, a 14-day exposure to
Muscodor killed 100 percent of cocooned codling moth larvae, which are
especially difficult to control.
Lacey and colleagues have also been testing Muscodors
effectiveness in biofumigating sealed cartons of apples stored at various
temperatures. The results have been encouraging so far, he reports, and there
appears to be no adverse effect on the apples color, firmness or other
more about this research in the February 2010 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The
research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.