Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: October 15, 2000
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Biological control of plant diseases refers to the reduction of a plant pathogen or its disease-producing activities by one or more antagonistic organisms present in the environment. Thousands of potential microbial biocontrol agents have been isolated from agricultural fields and crops during research over the last 80 years, yet only a few are in commercial use. Recently, concerns about the environmental impact of chemical pesticides have led to consideration of biological control as a natural approach to maintaining crop health. However, despite environmental incentives and strong research efforts, commercialization of biocontrol agents has been slow to evolve. The momentum of the chemical industry is difficult to shift, and fermentation processes tend to be more expensive to operate than synthetic chemical processes. Yet there is a demand for biological control products, especially in agricultural niche markets, where there is no chemical competitor. However, given this market demand, the fundamental methods of developing economical large-scale productions of biological control agents are lacking. Many aspects of biocontrol agent production and development represent untrodden territory in the progression of industrial fermentation technology beyond its well-established food and pharmaceuticals niche. Distinguishing them from traditional fermentation products, biocontrol agents must not only be produced in high yield but must also meet the following quality criteria: high (near 100%) retention of cell viability with maintenance of crop compatibility and bioefficacy during several months of storage. Research findings will be reviewed to illustrate the challenges and strategies of developing processes to manufacture and deliver biological agents for plant disease control.