Methyl bromide--now used to protect more than 100 crops from an array of pests and pathogens--will be phased out by January 1, 2001. USDA-ARS scientists in Beltsville, Maryland, have discovered three new species of beneficial fungi that may have the potential to fill part of the gap left by the phaseout of methyl bromide.
Mycologist Gary J. Samuels identified and described the new fungi which belong to the genus Hypomyces. They are related to the known beneficial fungus Trichoderma, so these newly discovered relatives also hold promise as biocontrol agents.
Samuels, working with Kadri Poldmaa of the Institute of Botany and Zoology at the University of Tartu in Estonia, discovered one of the new species in Illinois as the asexually sporulating form, Cladobotryum. The other two newly described species, H. favoli and H. puertoricensis, were discovered on rotting wood by USDA Forest Service scientist D. Jean Lodge in 1992 while conducting a biological survey of the rainforest in Puerto Rico.
It is the sexually reproducing forms of these new fungi that have researchers excited about their potential as biocontrol agents to replace methyl bromide because the fungi can be genetically manipulated and improved to fight harmful fungi.
Becker, H. 1998. Setting the stage to screen biocontrol fungi. Agricultural Research 46(7): 10.
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