15 Mar 2012

University studies link between marine life and Psa

7:46 am on 15 March 2012

Researchers at Waikato University say the natural defences of marine organisms could be just as useful on-land, to protect kiwifruit vines from the disease Psa.

The university's Environmental Research Institute is investigating the biochemical makeup of marine life, including algae, sea weed and sea sponges, to see if they have certain compounds which could be used in anti-cancer drugs.

Professor Chris Battershill, who's leading the research, says they're also investigating whether those same compounds could be used in agrichemicals.

Kiwifruit marketer Zespri is involved with that investigation, in a bid to add to its Psa toolbox.

Dr Battershill says the research is at a very early stage, but he's confident they'll find something which will help to protect kiwifruit vines from Psa.

He says researchers are looking for a compound that has activity against Psa that might be used in something like a topical spray.

Dr Battershill says many of these compounds influence quorum sensing, the chemical communication processes among bacteria and other micro-organisms particularly in root systems.

He says some of these compounds can enhance that chemical signalling so that it builds stronger natural defence systems.

Dr Battershill believes there's a good chance of finding these compounds based on previous research he's undertaken.

He says it's necessary to identify these bioactive chemical leads that can be produced in sufficient quantity that will provide a relevant application process.

Professor Battershill says they hope to have a pilot scheme running by September.