A novel, environmentally friendly agent that naturally controls fungus and
bacteria in agriculture has been developed by the Yissum Research and
Development Company at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The new biocontrol
method for protecting plants from pathogens uses yeast isolated from strawberry
leaves, is non-toxic and effective for a large variety of
Agriculture depends heavily on the use of pesticides to increase
crop yield. But the widespread use of chemical pesticides has resulted in severe
environmental pollution, and many pathogens are developing resistance to the
chemicals. In addition, many pesticides are now banned for use, and organic
farming may not rely on such substances at all. A major goal, therefore, is to
develop new, environmentally- friendly tools to control pathogens.
Yissum’s new biocontrol agent, based on naturally-occurring fungi, not only
boosts the plant’s resistance to infestations but also enhances growth. The HU
company is now looking for an appropriate partner for the further development
and commercialization of the product.
The agent was developed by Dr.
Maggie Levy from the university’s department of plant pathology and microbiology
in the faculty of agriculture, food and environment.
It is based on a
species of the epiphytic yeast called Pseudozyma, which derives moisture and
nutrients from the air and rain. It usually grows on another plant but is not
Levy and her team showed that the yeast secretes substances
that inhibit several fungal and bacterial pathogens. Application of the yeast
spores significantly diminished the growth of different fungal causal agents of
plant diseases such as powdery mildews, the gray mold that has more than 400
different hosts, crown rust, the black spot disease of cultivated Brassicas and
late wilt disease in corn. Pathogenic bacteria such as Clavibacter michiganensis
, the causative agent of bacterial canker of tomato, were also inhibited by the
Levy’s novel biocontrol agent is easy to produce, nontoxic and
effective at low concentrations and will reduce the amount of chemicals required
for pathogen control.
This, in turn, would genuinely benefit farmers,
consumers and the environment.
The Jerusalem Education
Authority has opened a new science field in which students can matriculate –
Together with the Belmonte Center of Science Labs on the
Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus, the authority has opened the new field for
high school pupils ready to pursue nanochemistry at a level of five
Eleventh-grade pupils from around the city who have registered for
the new field of study will go to Belmonte for 90 hours of lab work and listen
to lectures by leading university chemists who are experts in nanotechnology.
Mayor Nir Barkat said that Jerusalem “again proves that it leads in educational
innovation. We are working hard all the time on new educational programs to
promote the advance of Jerusalem pupils, who are the future of the city.” Other
Jerusalem institutions that will cooperate with the program include the Israel
Museum and the Hadassah University Medical Centers.
Nanochemistry, a new
field in chemistry, involves the ability to produce new materials and systems
with innovative characteristics and for new uses by working at the atomic,
molecular and super-molecular level. These affect the fields of electronics,
magnetism, medicine, alternative energy and others. Developments in
nanochemistry can lead to the building of small computer components that are
speedier, more energetic and more efficient compared to today’s memory
The Belmonte labs are already involved in the municipal
educational system’s teaching of astrophysics, space studies for physics pupils,
biotechnology and robotics.