'Soyscreen': Sunscreen for fungus to expand biological control of crop pests

August 25, 2010
'Soyscreen': Sunscreen for fungus to expand biological control of crop pests
Farmers would use the same method of spraying they use for insecticides to protect insect-fighting fungi with a newly developed sunscreen. Credit: Mike Dabell

Scientists today at the 240th American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting & Exposition described development and successful initial tests on a substance that acts as a sunscreen for the microscopic spores of a fungus, brightening prospects for wider use of the fungus as a means of wiping out insect pests that attack food crops.

"Our finding is especially important for the environment because improving the effectiveness of biological control treatments like this will help to reduce dependence on chemical pesticides," said team leader Robert W. Behle, Ph.D.

Behle explained that the -- Beauveria bassiana -- shows great promise as a agent, one that does not use conventional pesticides and poses little threat to people, animals, beneficial insects, or the environment. He is with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

The problem, however, is that B. bassiana's are vulnerable to sunlight. Insecticides based on the fungus contain the spores in a liquid that can be sprayed onto crops. The spores germinate into the actual fungus, which infects and kills a range of destructive insect pests.

"To protect the fungus, we used soyscreen oil, bio-based UV-absorbing molecules made by combining molecules of soybean oil with ferulic acid," Behle explained. "The spores survive quite well in oil-based formulations. We found that soyscreen had no harmful effects on the fungus spores stored in the oil for 28 weeks. Most important, the 'soyscreen' successfully protected the spores from degrading when exposed to sunlight."

The study was among nearly 8,000 scientific reports scheduled for presentation at the meeting, one of the largest scientific gatherings of 2010.

Explore further: Advance in the battle against 'gray mold'

Related Stories

Advance in the battle against 'gray mold'

December 15, 2008

Scientists are reporting identification of the cluster of genes responsible for the toxins produced by "gray mold," a devastating plant disease that kills almost 200 different food and ornamental plants including tomatoes, ...

Fungus-on-Fungus Fight Could Benefit Chickpeas

December 8, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The fungus Ascochyta rabiei threatens chickpea crops the world over. But now this blight-causing pathogen could meet its match in Aureobasidium pullulans, a rival fungus that Agricultural Research Service ...

Uncovering the mystery of a major threat to wheat

June 1, 2010

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have solved a longstanding mystery as to why a pathogen that threatens the world's wheat supply can be so adaptable, diverse and virulent. It is because the fungus that causes ...

Recommended for you

Moonlighting molecules: Finding new uses for old enzymes

November 27, 2015

A collaboration between the University of Cambridge and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, has led researchers to identify a potentially significant new application for a well-known ...

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...

Getting under the skin of a medieval mystery

November 23, 2015

A simple PVC eraser has helped an international team of scientists led by bioarchaeologists at the University of York to resolve the mystery surrounding the tissue-thin parchment used by medieval scribes to produce the first ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.