Sussex fungicides may help fight ash dieback
By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Friday, 31 January 2014
A new fungicide treatment developed at the University of Sussex is emerging as a weapon in the fight to inhibit growth of Chalara fraxinea, which causes ash dieback, according to initial trials at The Sainsbury Laboratory.
If developed further, it could be used to treat infected nursery stock or ash plantations that are blighted by the disease. It is more problematic to use fungicides in native woodland, where spraying is difficult and fungicides may affect beneficial fungi that help tree nutrition and healthy growth.
AOX fungicides were created in the University of Sussex laboratory of Professor Tony Moore, and have recently been subjected to independent trials in the world-renowned Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich.
Fungal pathogens are adept at developing resistance to treatments by expressing an enzyme called the alternative oxidase (AOX). The novel compounds formulated by Professor Moore prevent this enzyme from being functional. If developed, these compounds may be effective for longer and need less frequent spraying.
The compounds were particularly effective when combined with a traditional fungicide that targets a different enzyme in the fungus. Professor Moore and his colleagues identified the current target using data made available by The Sainsbury Laboratory on infected tree samples. The data are available for other scientists to analyse on the crowdsourcing website OpenAshDieBack.
Professor Moore hopes that in the future, AOX fungicides could also be used to better protect cereal crops from pathogenic fungi. As well as protecting yields, they could lessen the environmental damage caused by multiple applications. The University of Sussex is currently working with the Sussex Innovation Centre to help bring the compounds to market, and is seeking commercial partners to develop AOX fungicides for a range of applications.
Ian Carter, Director of Research and Enterprise at the University of Sussex, said: “It’s extremely encouraging to see the successful trials of Professor Moore’s innovation that are coming out of The Sainsbury Laboratory. We’re delighted that research at Sussex is producing such promising results and helping to provide solutions to real global problems.”
Dr Diane Saunders, The Sainsbury Laboratory, said:“This first step in testing the new compounds, on the growth of fungus cultured in the laboratory, was promising. If developed, it could help nursery and plantation owners. It would be particularly useful for protecting trees that are susceptible to the pathogen when young, but which might be more tolerant to it when they are mature. Our own research is focused on both ash trees and the fungus, with the long term goal to develop a way to select and breed trees able to withstand the disease for generations to come.”
Notes for Editors:
For more information about AOX Fungicides, please contact the Sussex Innovation Centre Press Office:
01273 704 400
TSL press office:
01603 450 962 / 07768 164 185
About the University of Sussex:
The University of Sussex is a leading research university, with over 90 per cent of Sussex research activity rated as world leading, internationally excellent or internationally recognised, confirming the University among the leading 30 research universities in the UK. Sussex has a long tradition of engaging with business and the community, which continues today through activities such as the Sussex Innovation Centre, public lectures and service to the community. Our goal is to help businesses and organisations in the region develop higher staff skill levels through training, and to stimulate innovation through partnership with other institutions outside Sussex to benefit the wider society.
About Sussex Innovation Centre:
The Sussex Innovation Centre is a stimulating location for entrepreneurs, start-ups, growing companies and corporate innovators, offering flexible, professional office space and a comprehensive range of in-house support services designed to assist during the vital early years of operation. It is based at the Falmer campus of the University of Sussex, near Brighton. The Centre was conceived as the flagship development of the 'Sussex Academic Corridor' (SAC), a unique collaboration between public, academic and business sectors. Now wholly owned by the University of Sussex, the Centre continues to be committed to harnessing the economic potential of the extensive education and research resources available in the Sussex area.
About The Sainsbury Laboratory:
The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) is a world-leading research centre focusing on making fundamental discoveries about plants and how they interact with microbes. TSL not only provides fundamental biological insights into plant-pathogen interactions, but is also delivering novel, genomics-based solutions which will significantly reduce losses from major diseases of food crops, especially in developing countries. www.tsl.ac.uk