Jan. 11, 2018
|The image shows how a bacteriophage infects a bacterium. (Image credit: https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/700/1*MB-XzTH2kOwdUz2VOBUdA.jpeg )
A pioneering project that will explore the potential of bacteriophages as biopesticides for soft rot, a major disease of vegetables in the Philippines, was launched in an inception meeting at the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) recently.
Funded and monitored by DOST-PCAARRD, the project is led by the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture Regional Crop Protection Clusters, Benguet State University (BSU), and local government units.
Project Leader Johnny F. Balidion sees the potential of bacteriophages in controlling soft rot caused by various enterobacteria in high value vegetables.
A bacteriophage or phage is a virus that infects bacteria. It injects its genetic material past the bacterial cell wall and produces multiple progenies inside the cell. The bacterium ruptures and dies as a result, while the phage progenies spread and invade other bacteria.
Phages have highly specific target hosts and are effective against antibiotic- and heavy metal-resistant bacteria. They are cheap and easy to prepare. As biocontrol agents, phages may lower the cost of crop protection, which will benefit vegetable farmers.
Application of bacteriophages to vegetables may cut the use of chemical pesticides and thus, lessen the chemical residues on vegetables. Controlling soft rot through the use of phages may also extend the shelf life of vegetables.
The two-year project will cover basic studies only. Projects dealing with the application of bacteriophages will be pursued if the findings from the current project are favorable.
The current phase aims to examine the diversity of bacterial pathogens that cause soft rot and the associated phages, study the behavior and activity of the phages when infecting bacteria, and assess their bio-efficacy.
Bacteriophages are already being used in the US and Europe for food-borne pathogens and are generally regarded as safe.
No effective control strategies against soft rot of vegetables in the Philippines exist at present.