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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Bioprocess Development
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BIOPROSPECTING FOR NOVEL PESTICIDES AND HIGH-VALUE
COMPOUNDS IN FUNGI AND BACTERIA

WHY ARE NEW PESTICIDES NEEDED?


There is growing concern about the use of pesticides because of their potential effects on human health and the environment.  Recent legislative withdrawal of a number of commercial pesticides has left some crops vulnerable to plant pests and diseases.  In addition, the continued use of some pesticides has led to the development of resistance to them in pests and pathogens. We are working on the development of alternative methods of pest control by searching for compounds with novel modes of action that are highly selective and environmentally friendly.

 

Cicada infected with
Paecilomyces cicadae

 

 

WHERE DO WE FIND THESE NEW PESTICIDES?

 

We mainly search for potential biopesticides
using fungi from the ARS Collection
of Entomopathogenic Fungi (ARSEF)

in (Ithaca, NY).  We use molecular tools as a
means to identify promising candidates.
We are also using plant pathogenic
 bacteria and fungi and selected plants to
identify biopesticides to use in agriculture 
or for other high value uses, such as
pharmaceuticals.

 

 

Cicada Infected with
Cordyceps heteropoda 

Housefly infected with
Entomophaga muscae

Cockroach infected with Metarhizium anisopliae

 

 
WHAT HAS OUR BIOPROSPECTING HELPED US FIND?
 

A major factor in the need to identify new pesticides is that the rate of discovery has gone from 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 20,000 compounds in the past 20 years.  We have identified bioactive compounds from fungi, plants and bacteria that have antifungal,  antibacterial, antiinsect, and herbicidal activity.  We have studied these compounds to assess their potential as biorational pesticides (biopesticides) alone and as lead chemistries for the design of new, safer pesticides. We are also interested in the roles that these biopesticides may play in their host organism during the infection process.  This information is important to assess the safety of biological control agents as well as to understand what happens when a plant pathogenic organism causes disease.


Team Members

Donna M. Gibson, Research Leader, Biological Integrated Pest Management Research Unit and Lead Scientist
Stuart B. Krasnoff, Entomologist
Richard Vaughan, Biologist

Affiliates through research funding by USDA, National Research Initiative
Bruno Donzelli, Cornell Research Associate 

 


Last Modified: 3/28/2014