New Technology Aims to One up Plant Pests and Pathogens

Scientists at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) recently announced they have found an innovative way to treat pathogens and pests in citrus trees, as well as potato and tomato plants without the use of antibiotics.

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In collaboration with the University of Florida and AUM LifeTech Inc., researchers found the molecule FANA ASO (antisense oligonucleotide) when used in a water solution attacks the inner part of the pest’s cells and also reduces the harmful bacteria the insects transmit.

“Bacterial pathogens have only been targeted using antibiotics in fruit crops and livestock animals,” says Wayne Hunter, ARS Research Entomologist at the U. S. Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, FL. “The successful use of FANA to target these pathogens in citrus trees, grapevines, and vegetable crops is a game-changer. It has transformed how we can manage pathogens and pests of plants in the future.”

Bacteria exhibit certain characteristics, such as rapid reproduction or protective coating that make them difficult to manage with antibiotic treatments. FANA ASO has the capacity for stronger management practices by targeting insects, bacteria, and viruses through multiple delivery methods, making it easy to apply directly to the soil and root zone of citrus trees, potted plants, or as a topical spray application onto the leaves of plant foliage.

“Unlike previous issues we encountered with similar technologies, the multiple delivery methods of FANA are all very effective,” adds Rodney Cooper, ARS Research Entomologist at the Temperate Tree Fruit and Vegetable Research Unit in Wapato, WA. “This opens the door for further research to extend this to other varieties of fruit and vegetable crops.”

For more info, this study is published in the July issue of Frontiers in Agronomy-Pest Management.

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