Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Utilising natural fungus for ecological herbicides

An Andalusian research group has developed a new procedure to isolate and synthesise novel bioherbicides that can be employed in organic agricultural systems to control competing and unwanted vegetation.
Utilising natural fungus for ecological herbicides
Utilising both traditional and scientific knowledge, organic agricultural systems rely on agronomic, biological and mechanical methods, as opposed to synthetic materials, to fulfill any specific function within the system.

The bioherbicides approach has promised effective weed management in cropping systems, as an alternative to the widespread use of chemical herbicides. These are applied like conventional chemical herbicides but the active ingredient is a naturally occurring microbe - usually fungus. Such mycoherbicides are very specific, so there is less risk of damage to non-target plants. In addition, the bioherbicide does not persist in the environment beyond the target species, so there is less contamination of products and the environment.

Biochemistry researchers in Spain focused on the discovery of environmentally and toxicologically benign herbicidal compounds with new modes of action. It was the fungus Botrytis Cinerea that attracted their attention. Among fungal plant pathogens, this causal agent of grey mold displays wide host range specificity, infecting a large range of plant genera.

New methodologies were employed to isolate natural secondary products exhibiting biological activity from a strain of Botrytis Cinerea, grown in liquid culture media. The procedure yielded numerous compounds of the botcinolide skeleton and homobotcinolide, its natural analog, whose structures were subsequently elucidated on the basis of spectroscopic data.

These compounds can be used directly or as templates for herbicides. Further experiments need to be carried out in ongoing research of their biological activity, including degradation and phytotoxicity experiments as well as of their potential agronomic utility. The research group offers a licence for the intellectual property of the procedure to industrial partners, particularly a partner engaged in agricultural chemicals, interested in exploring the industrial use of these phytopathogenic fungus products.
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