Tobacco plant inspires researchers to develop biodegradable crop protection

June 10, 2018 |

In Germany, Technical University of Munich researchers developed an alternative to traditional insecticides that endanger bees, other beneficial insects, waterways, and soil. The new biodegradable agent keeps pests at bay without poisoning them by using cembratrienol, which is found in tobacco plant leaves. The molecule helps the plant protect itself from pests and acts as a repellant.

Using synthetic biotechnology tools, Professor Brück’s team isolated the sections of the tobacco plant genome responsible for the formation of the CBTol molecules. They then built these into the genome of coli bacteria. Fed with wheat bran, a by-product from grain mills, the genetically modified bacteria now produce the desired active agent.

Initial investigations indicate that the CBTol spray is non-toxic to insects, yet still protects against aphids. Since it is biodegradable, it does not accumulate.

In addition, the bioactivity tests showed that cembratrienol has an antibacterial effect on gram-positive bacteria. It can thus be used as a disinfectant spray that acts specifically against pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA pathogen), Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumonia pathogen) or Listeria monocytogenes (listeriosis pathogen).

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Category: Research

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