The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing a new class of fungicides compliant with organic agriculture. Fungal pathogens pose one of the greatest economic threats to agriculture. Every year fungal infections – such as root rot smut and powdery mildew – destroy about 125 million tons of the top five food crops globally. One pest Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is responsible for a disease called white mold and causes $250 million in annual damages in the U.S. alone. Today the majority of fungicides are synthetic or metal-containing and therefore not compliant with USDA organic agriculture laws. The rise in pesticide-resistant strains and the risk to human health is driving the search for safe and effective alternatives. UW–Madison researchers have identified an antimicrobial agent produced as a byproduct of biomass processing. The agent is a diferulate compound called poacic acid (and sometimes also called ‘8-5-DC’). It has been shown to target and destroy the cell walls of several species of fungus and yeast.
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