WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE?
Fungus attack causes widespread, expensive damage to cereals, vegetables, fruit, animal feed crops, forests and timber every year. It occurs in fields, in orchards, in the forest and where products are stored. In addition, it causes human and animal health problems, since many mould fungi form toxic substances (mycotoxins), some of which may cause cancer, foetal damage, kidney failure or weaken the immune system. The possibilities to control fungi often dictate where different crops can be cultivated and whether they can be cultivated without the use of chemical fungicides. Root rot, the most serious disease affecting trees, causes annual damage in Swedish coniferous forests of up to SEK one billion – there are hence considerable economic and environmental reasons for trying to prevent timber stocks being attacked.
HOW CAN THE PROGRAMME CONTRIBUTE TO A SOLUTION?
Research within the programme is aimed at developing methods to control harmful fungi based on the use of natural enemies. Micro-fungi and bacteria in soil, plants, water, food, animal feed and wood products seem to be engaged in constant mortal combat. By learning to understand and in some cases “domesticate” the organisms that control the harmful fungi, good and economically beneficial fungicidal effects may be achieved without undesirable impact on the external environment and the working environment, or the risk of residual concentrations in food and animal feed, which occur when chemical pesticides are used. Several of the natural enemies identified and tested within the programme have already become commercial products used in agriculture and forestry.
WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THE RESULTS?
Agriculture and the food industry. Forestry and the forest industry. The horticultural industry. Central, regional and local authorities responsible for these industries. Environmental authorities. Biotechnology companies.