Formulas to Help Microbes Clean Up Toxic
By Jill Lee
March 26, 1997
Microorganisms will work hard to clean toxins from the soil or wipe out food
crop pests, but you have to treat them right, scientists with
Agricultural Research Service say.
The scientists have successfully harnessed the power of fungi to help banish
weeds and insects from farmers fields. A crucial discovery along the way:
The right storage formula will make the fungi multiply.
One such formula is wheat-based Pesta, which provides a nourishing
home for two biological controls against swamp dodder, a pest of
Scientists from New Orleans Tulane
University adapted the ARS technology to their work with soil-cleansing
fungi. The story of their collaborative efforts with ARS scientists appears in
the March issue of Agricultural
The Cold Wars end brought closure for many weapons plants, but toxic
TNT residues remain as deadly souvenirs. Phanerochaete chrysosporium,
commonly known as white rot fungi, may have the power to break down these
poisons into harmless by-products. But before this can happen, a good storage
medium must be found.
ARS scientists have developed a wide menu of formulas to keep white rot
fungi and other microorganisms thriving so they can reach their full potential
as soil cleaners and pest fighters. Their next collaborative project with
Tulane: finding the right formula for a mushroom that might cleanse the
carcinogen benzo[a]pyrene out of soils.
Scientific contact: William Connick and
Don Daigle, ARS
Research Center, New Orleans, La., phone (504) 286-4363/4511, e-mail