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New Protection for Peanuts From Aflatoxin

By Sharon Durham
June 22, 2004

Peanut farmers now have a biological pesticide for protecting their crops from fungi that produce aflatoxin. A biological pesticide developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists recently received U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Section 3 registration.

Circle One Global, Inc. (COGI), of Cuthbert, Ga., the sole licensee of the ARS treatment, will immediately begin producing the biopesticide, called Afla-Guard, for use in 2004. The ideal time to inoculate peanut fields is late June or early July.

ARS scientist Joe W. Dorner and colleagues at the agency's National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., made the biological treatment from spores of a nontoxigenic strain of Aspergillus flavus that is applied to barley kernels. The kernels are then applied to the soil beneath the plant canopy, where the fungus colonizes the barley and establishes itself to compete against toxigenic strains of A. flavus that are naturally present. Other strains of A. flavus, as well as A. parasiticus, are the primary producers of aflatoxin.

Afla-Guard, in field trials, reduced aflatoxin typically 70 to 90 percent after the first application. Repeated applications in subsequent years reduced aflatoxin by as much as 98 percent.

COGI has agreements with peanut shelling companies to provide Afla-Guard to growers in Alabama and Georgia for treatment of 7,000 to 8,000 acres this year. More will be available in future years. Until now, there were no chemical or biological applications that farmers could put on their peanut crops to protect them from aflatoxin.

Aflatoxin outbreaks occur when certain crops, like peanuts and corn, are stressed by drought conditions.

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