The USDA has awarded AgraQuest, Davis, Calif., a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant for "Development of a Volatile-Producing Microorganism for Controlling Post Harvest and Soil-Borne Diseases." Over a period of two years, the $296,000 grant will assist AgraQuest in the commercialization of this biological fumigant. This is a continuation of the $75,000 Phase I research grant awarded in 2003.

The product is based on the novel fungus Muscodor albus, which produces gaseous (volatile) substances that fight plant and human pathogens, insects and nematodes.AgraQuest is developing this product as Arabesque(TM) (for post harvest fruit, nut vegetable, seed and bulb disease and insect control), Pirouette(TM) (for pre-plant fumigation of almonds, stone fruit, nursery crops, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and other crops) and Glissade(TM) (for greenhouse soil diseases).

Waiting EPA approval, products based on Muscodor have the potential to replace methyl bromide, a fumigant being phased out of use. The product shows excellent results in field trials for both pre-plant uses (such as applications before transplanting peppers and tomatoes) and post harvest prevention and eradication of molds and rots (such as grapes, cherries, tomatoes, peppers, citrus, apples, and others).

Other uses for the biofumigant include applications to control or eradicate food-borne pathogens like Salmonella, E.coli, and Listeria, for grain treatments to control molds, and for treatment of molds in buildings.

"We are thrilled that the USDA chose to continue to support us as we move toward commercialization of this novel product with so many potential uses," said Dr. Denise Manker, AgraQuest's vice president of research & development.

Source: PR Newswire