A survey by the National Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM) found bioactive compounds capable of inhibiting the growth and even causing the death of the fungus Thielaviopsis ethacetica, which causes one of the five most frequent pests in sugarcane fields, known as “pineapple rot”. The study was published in the journal Enviromental Microbiology.
The fungus is capable of preventing the germination of sugarcane seedlings or delaying their development, leaving the affected areas with large gaps. The name of the disease is due to the fermentation generated by the fungus, with a characteristic odor similar to that of pineapple. The microorganism usually penetrates the stem of plants through injuries caused during planting or mechanized harvesting.
The bioactive compounds capable of inhibiting or killing this fungus were found in three types of bacteria that are part of the collection of seven thousand microorganisms at the National Biorenewables Laboratory (LNBR). When the bioactive molecules present in these bacteria were tested, a total inhibition of the growth and death of the fungus was observed.
At the National Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS), responsible for operating the Sirius particle accelerator, spectroscopy analyzes confirmed that the biomolecules caused damage to the fungus’s DNA. “This tool is very important to address several similar challenges in agriculture. Due to the high sensitivity of the technique, it is possible to detect molecular interactions even in complex microorganisms such as fungi”, explains researcher Francisco Maia, one of the authors of the study.
Brazil is the world’s largest producer of sugarcane. In the 2020-21 harvest, it was responsible for the production of 654.5 million tons, destined for the production of 41.2 million tons of sugar and 29.7 billion liters of ethanol.
The research, which had the support of the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (Fapesp), can be found at intact.