Farm Industry News

Disease defense, naturally

Product uses protein to heighten plant's own protection system to control disease and pests.

A quiet discovery eight years ago in a Cornell University lab of a new type of natural plant protection has led to the development of a product called Messenger.

The new product promises broad- spectrum control of viral, bacterial and fungal disease as well as reduced insect damage. In addition, field trials with Messenger show increased yield, stress tolerance and plant vigor in many crops tested.

Messenger relies on the Cornell discovery of a protein, produced by bacteria commonly found in the environment, that causes a plant to launch a defense against disease. In response to the protein, the plant's natural defense mechanisms and growth systems kick in.

A research team headed by Zhong-Min Wei isolated the protein and named it harpin. They discovered that spraying the harpin protein on plants initiates their self-protection against pathogen attacks.

Eden Bioscience began research, development and testing of the protein. The company hopes to market Messenger for citrus, cotton and tomato, pending EPA approval. The product is not genetically modified and is considered safe because harpin is a naturally occurring protein.

The company says Messenger will be available in powder form. When mixed with water, only 1 tsp. of the product will be needed to treat one acre. It also may be used as a seed treatment on some crops.

The company plans to conduct field trials in corn and soybeans this summer, with tentative plans to release a product for those crops within two years.

For more information, contact Eden Bioscience, Dept. FIN, 11816 North Creek Pkwy. N., Bothell, WA 98011-8205, 425/806-7300.

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