Global grain, oilseed and horticultural industries suffer production losses in the order of billions of dollars per annum as a direct result of biotic attack by pathogen and pests. In particular, necrotrophic fungal pathogens (those that kill host plants) cause some of the most destructive diseases. Diseases caused by these pathogens are chronic and widespread, and management options are limited due to the lack of host resistance, ineffective, costly and/or toxic chemicals/fungicides and persistence of the pathogens in crop residues between seasons.
New viable solutions are critically needed for replacement of an increasing number of chemical fungicides that have been deregistered owing to toxicity and growing regulations. The biocontrol team is working closely with industry to deliver new “green” biological solutions based on beneficial biocontrol microbes (specifically Actinobacteria isolates) or their bioactive natural compounds.
The biocontrol team has developed a collection of unique endophytic Actinobacteria. A combination of genomics, metabolomics, bioinformatics, and traditional microbiology and plant pathology techniques are being used to unravel bioactivity within the collection and design novel biofungicides for control of intractable fungal diseases. This includes awakening the undiscovered chemical potential within Actinobacteria isolates through microbial and chemical elicitation of “silent” biosynthetic gene clusters.