JERUSALEM--()--Agriculture relies heavily on the use of pesticides in order to maximise crop yield. However, the widespread use of chemical pesticides has resulted in severe environmental pollution, and many pathogens are developing resistance to existing chemicals. In addition, many pesticides are now banned for use, and organic farming is not allowed to rely on such substances at all. A major goal, therefore, is to develop new, environmentally-friendly tools to control pathogens.
“The novel biocontrol agent developed in the lab of Dr. Levy is easy to produce, non-toxic and effective at low concentrations, and will serve to reduce the amount of chemicals required for pathogen control. This, in turn, would genuinely benefit farmers, consumers and the environment.”
Now, Yissum Research and Development Company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, introduces a novel biocontrol agent that is based on naturally-occurring fungi that increase the plant's resistance to fungal and bacterial infestations as well as enhances growth. The new biocontrol agent has a complex mode of action that reduces pathogens' ability to develop resistance. The invention was patented by Yissum, which is currently searching for an appropriate partner for the further development and commercialization of the product.
The novel biocontrol agent was developed by Dr. Maggie Levy, from the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Hebrew University. It is based on a species of the epiphytic yeast Pseudozyma that is isolated from strawberry leaves. Dr. Levy and her team showed that this yeast secretes substances which inhibit several fungal and bacterial pathogens. Application of the yeast spores significantly abolished growth of different fungal causal agents of plant diseases such as powdery mildews, the gray mold that has more than 400 different hosts, crown rust, the black spot disease of cultivated Brassicas and late wilt disease in corn. Pathogenic bacteria such as Clavibacter michiganensis, the causative agent of bacterial canker of tomato, were also inhibited by the yeast.
"Fungal biocontrol agents have become an important alternative to the use of chemicals due to environmental concerns. The complex mode of action of biocontrol agents reduces the likelihood that pathogens will develop resistance to them," said Yaacov Michlin, CEO of Yissum. "The novel biocontrol agent developed in the lab of Dr. Levy is easy to produce, non-toxic and effective at low concentrations, and will serve to reduce the amount of chemicals required for pathogen control. This, in turn, would genuinely benefit farmers, consumers and the environment."
Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Ltd. was founded in 1964 to protect and commercialize the Hebrew University’s intellectual property. Products based on Hebrew University technologies that have been commercialized by Yissum currently generate $2 Billion in annual sales. Ranked among the top technology transfer companies in the world, Yissum has registered over 7,700 patents covering 2,200 inventions; has licensed out 580 technologies and has spun out 74 companies. Yissum’s business partners span the globe and include companies such as Novartis, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Intel, Teva and many more. For further information please visit www.yissum.co.il.