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Scientists Find Abundant Moldy Treasures, Including Penicillia / November 9, 1999 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Technician Eileen Bayer examines a newly discovered Penicillium species.

Scientists Find Abundant Moldy Treasures, Including Penicillia

By Ben Hardin
November 9, 1999

Recently discovered natural chemicals extracted from molds may have important practical applications as agricultural pesticides, animal health products or antifungal antibiotics.

From a collection of 600 molds that parasitize wood-decaying fungi, a team of Agricultural Research Service and University of Iowa scientists found dozens of chemicals that inhibit the growth of two grain-infecting molds, Aspergillus flavus and Fusarium verticillioides. The team also has produced about 1,600 fungal extracts that companies are screening for useful chemicals.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.

Using an automated DNA sequencer, ARS scientists at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Illinois, determined that 39 of the 600 mold cultures represented Penicillium species that were new to science. In one fell swoop they had run into the largest discovery of new Penicillium species by any person or group since the genus was first described in 1809.

The new penicillia were added to the ARS Culture Collection’s 102 previously known species, including those that scientists at NCAUR used to help launch the antibiotics industry a half century ago.

An article about the research appears in the November issue of ARS' Agricultural Research magazine, which can be found on the web at:

Scientific contact: Donald T. Wicklow and Stephen W. Peterson, ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, IL 61604, phone (309) 681-6243 [Wicklow], (309) 681- 6384 [Peterson], fax (309) 681-6686,,

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