Medicinal Compound Gets New Life as
Fungicide By Luis
Pons February 23, 2005
Growers of many fruit and ornamental crops have new weapons for
fighting destructive fungi, thanks to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and University of Mississippi (UM) scientists who've transformed a
medicinal compound into an agricultural fungicide.
The naturally occurring compound, called sampangine, was first
patented by UM in 1990 as a treatment for human fungal infections. It was never
Now, plant pathologist
Wedge of ARS'
Products Utilization Research Unit and UM associate professor Dale Nagle
have been issued a patent for sampangine and similar, related compounds as
broad-spectrum, low-toxicity controls of fungal plant pathogens that threaten
The ARS unit and the university are both based in Oxford, Miss. ARS is
the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief
scientific research agency.
According to the new patent--US No. 6,844,353--sampangine-based
compounds can control such fungi as Botrytis cinerea, which causes gray
mold on tomatoes; Colletotrichum fragariae, which produces anthracnose
crown rot and wilt in strawberry plants; C. gloeosporioides, which
sickens numerous plants, including grapes, strawberry, citrus and papaya; and
Fusarium oxysporum, which induces vascular wilt in crops such as potato,
sugarcane and many ornamentals.
Smith of the ARS
Fruits Research Station in Poplarville, Miss., helped evaluate the
effectiveness of the compounds against strawberry anthracnose.
Sampangine can greatly help the United States' $31-billion-a-year
minor crop industry. For example, in recent studies in Louisiana, Wedge and
Smith verified that some Botrytis fungal strains now resist fungicides
commonly used against these strains.
According to Wedge, sampangine shows potential for managing fungicide
resistance against important diseases and augmenting use of fungicides that are
vulnerable to resistance. The sampangine-based fungicides may also find use as
postharvest and antidecay agents.
This work is also the focus of a cooperative research and development
agreement between ARS and Icoria Inc., a
North Carolina biotechnology firm. The agreement calls for work toward
determining sampangine's modes of action, and identifying additional related
compounds with commercial potential for managing agriculturally important