ARABLE farmers could soon have a range of novel bio-fungicides to help in the fight against wheat disease septoria, thanks to a new Innovate UK-funded project.

The work will screen bacteria for use as natural fungicide products and is being conducted by Agri-Tech Innovation Centre, CHAP (Crop Health and Protection) in collaboration with London-based biotechnology company, Bactobio. This will identify bacteria with modes of action against ascomycete fungus zymoseptoria tritici, commonly known as septoria, using Bactobio’s technology.

Dr Mark Wilkinson, head of compound discovery at Bactobio, formerly Baccucio, said: “Bacteria have huge potential to solve global issues. Previously, we’ve used our bacterial community cultivation platform (BACCU) to discover novel antibiotic solutions. We’re now employing this technology within crop protection, as we believe it has a role to play in addressing key issues such as fungicide resistance and the growing need for new, non-synthetic control options.

“By working together on this project, we hope to identify up to 10 active natural compounds with control activity for septoria. As the bacteria from which we derive those compounds will be of diverse genetic backgrounds, such research reduces the likelihood of future resistance, whilst of course offering lower environmental impact.”

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Field samples will be used for compound screening, after which CHAP’s partner, Rothamsted Research, will run glasshouse trials to test the efficacy of the potential bio-fungicides.

Innovation sector lead for CHAP, Richard Glass, said: “Septoria poses a major disease threat for UK wheat growers, with the potential to cause crop yield losses of up to £180m. With an ever diminishing number of synthetic chemicals in the crop protection toolbox, our industry needs to look for alternatives to safeguard yield and therefore ensure financial viability."