to Die For
"Hot" Plants Could Protect Strawberries - and More
Kendrick-Peabody, for the USDA
the connection between fiery cayenne peppers that give heat
to Creole cuisine, and the sweet, juicy strawberries of summertime?
A potent substance
found in cayenne peppers may someday be used by growers to battle
the costly molds that can spoil strawberry, blueberry and grape
crops. Last year, Agricultural Research Service scientists received
a patent for a novel fungicide, called CAY-1, which is derived
from cayenne peppers. Now they are looking to find out how well
its fungal-fighting powers work on strawberry molds.
Lucca, a microbiologist at ARS' Southern Regional Research Center
in New Orleans, La., teamed up with plant pathologists David Wedge
at ARS' Natural Products Utilization Research Unit in Oxford,
Miss., and Barbara Smith at the agency's Small Fruit Research
Station, Poplarville, Miss., to test CAY-1's efficacy on fungi
that afflict strawberries. With a year of promising plant and
laboratory results behind them, the scientists are conducting
greenhouse studies that may pave the way to CAY-1's commercial
De Lucca isolated
the CAY-1 saponin in his lab five years ago, while searching for
natural compounds to shield crops from infesting fungi. Found
widely in plants, saponins have detergent properties, causing
them to foam when shaken with water. Like laundry detergent that
works by penetrating a fabric's fiber, the cayenne saponin breaches
fungal cells by forming little holes along cell membranes.
been shown to be active at low levels against Collectotrichum
and Phomopsis, two economically important fungal pathogens affecting
strawberries and other small fruits. In strawberries, Phomopsis
causes serious leaf blight and fruit disease.
potential doesn't stop at crops. This powerful natural derivative
could support a range of applications, says De Lucca. Possible
uses include a mosquito larvacide, a molluscicide to rein in the
prolific zebra mussel that's fouling water supplies in the Great
Lakes, and a mildew-zapping bathroom product.
industry attention, CAY-1's antifungal activity is the focus of
studies by several commercial companies. ARS is providing the
cooperators with the cayenne extract.
ARS is USDA's
chief scientific research agency.
see in Gardening -> How
to Grow Peppers