JERUSALEM, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- Israeli researchers developed a biological agent to control charcoal rot disease that affects cotton crops, the MIGAL Galilee Research Institute in northern Israel said on Sunday.
Charcoal rot, common in warm and dry conditions, is caused by the fungus Macrophomina phaseolina which spreads in the soil and attacks over 500 plant species, including crops like cotton, soybeans, sunflowers, maize, and various legumes.
Charcoal rot symptoms develop in the late stages of growth and include drying of the leaves and stems, wilting, and death of the plant.
In a study led by the MIGAL Galilee Research Institute and Tel Hai Academic College, and published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, the researchers developed a biological pesticide based on Trichoderma fungi.
According to the study, tests on cotton plants showed that the new agent is applicable in sustainable agriculture and may provide a solution to other fungal plant diseases.
In a large field experiment carried out throughout a full growing season in Israel, the team found that the new method is effective as the common strong chemical pesticide, which is based on the fungicide Azoxystrobin.
It was found that not only did the new treatment, combined with a minimal amount of chemical control, reduce the amount of the pathogen in the cotton root tissues to zero levels, but it also improved the plants' parameters of survival, wet weight, height, and development.
Ofir Degani, a researcher who headed the study, told Xinhua that the minimal use of chemical components in the new method provides stability and strength to the biological exterminators whose activity is affected by the changing environmental conditions.
He added that the new method makes it possible to reduce the use of chemical substances while maximizing stability for environmentally friendly pest control.