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Biological pest and disease control

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How can plant-derived compounds help protect crops in an environmentally friendly way?

Ensuring that crops are free of pests and disease is vital to protecting the food supply chain on global and local scales. But commonly used synthetic crop protectors – herbicides, fungicides, virucides, and insecticides – can pose significant environmental risks.

How might the natural world help protect crops in an environmentally friendly way? These three articles from International Journal of Microbiology and International Journal of Agronomy examine the potential of natural solutions including plant extracts, essential oils, and helpful or ‘friendly’ bacteria and fungi. You can read more agronomy summaries here.

The below summaries describe how plant-derived antimicrobials, antioxidants, and silver nanoparticles could be used for food preservation and crop protection, how understanding and harnessing endophyte colonization could improve disease resistance, and demonstrate that garlic and ginger essential oil extracts show promise in defending against tomato blight.

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  • Promising Natural Products in Crop Protection and Food Preservation: Basis, Advances, and Future Prospectsfrom International Journal of AgronomyRising health and environmental risks associated with synthetic crop protectors and food preservatives have led scientists to search the natural world for alternatives. This review identifies various plant extracts that have been reported to have protective and preventive properties that can contribute to crop protection and food preservation. The authors also considers the use of plant extracts for synthesis of nanoparticles, particular silver nanoparticles, and associated environmental concerns.
  • Endophytes: Colonization, Behaviour, and Their Role in Defense Mechanism’ from International Journal of MicrobiologyEndophytes are microbes that infect plant tissues, but instead of causing disease, they can actually help prevent it. Environmental conditions, plant tissue type, and genetic factors all influence the protective capabilities of endophytes and can even trigger a change to pathogenic behaviour. By understanding these interactions, scientists hope to harness endophytes to naturally improve plant health and crop yield through improved stress tolerance.
  • ‘In Vitro Control of Phytophthora infestans and Alternaria solani Using Crude Extracts and Essential Oils from Selected Plants’ from International Journal of Agronomy
    A study has found that two natural extracts could be used as biofungicides to treat tomato blight. Essential oils extracted from garlic and ginger proved more effective than a synthetic fungicide in stopping blight caused by two common fungi. While the results still need to be confirmed by in vivo studies, the fungicidal oils could be a welcome natural alternative to toxic synthetics.

(Lay summaries by Research Square)


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