Published online: Oct 02, 2012 Herbicide
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Researchers have found a chemical in the potato scab bacterium that promises to be an effective herbicide for organic growers.

The current issue of the journal Nature Chemical Biology describes a key step toward commercial production of thaxtomin, which occurs naturally in Streptomyces bacteria and could be used as a pre-emergence herbicide.

"I got involved in potato scab early in my career," said Rosemary Loria, a co-author of the article and chair of the plant pathology department at the University of Florida. "As we started discovering more about (its) bacterial structure, a Canadian scientist found the thaxtomin. What we did was find the biosynthetic pathway for thaxtomin and defined it genetically."

In the study, the researchers describe an enzyme in the bacteria that is essential to producing the herbicide. The discovery could allow researchers to increase the amount of thaxtomin the bacterium produces, allowing commercially viable production of the chemical.

SOURCE: Steve Brown, Capital Press