AgraQuest, Inc., Davis, Calif., has received registration approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Department of Pesticide Regulation for the company's new natural fumigant.

The product is based on the novel fungus Muscodor albus, which produces gaseous (volatile) substances that safely and effectively control plant and human pathogens, insects and nematodes.

Products based on M. albus have the potential to replace methyl bromide, according to the company. Methyl bromide is being phased out of use by 160 countries under the Montreal Treaty because it disrupts the ozone layer.

M. albus shows excellent results in field trials for both preplant uses (such as applications before transplanting peppers and tomatoes) and post-harvest prevention and eradication of molds and rots (such as grapes, berries, tomatoes, and others).

AgraQuest's biofumigant is also being developed for fumigation of greenhouse soil to control diseases that attack plant roots.

Gary Strobel, a professor at Montana State University, discovered M. albus during an expedition in the rainforests of Central America. The gaseous compounds in M. albus provide an entirely new approach to replacing methyl bromide and other fumigant chemicals, explains Jonathan Margolis, vice-president of R&D at AgraQuest.

AgraQuest is developing M. albus products for a variety of applications, including: post-harvest disease control of fruit, nut vegetable, seed and bulbs; insect control; preplant fumigation of tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, nursery and other crops; re-plant disease of nut trees, stone fruit trees and vines; and greenhouse soil diseases.

Additional uses for the biofumigant include controlling or eradicating food-borne pathogens like Salmonella, E.coli, and Listeria, for the control of molds in grain, and for the treatment of molds in buildings.

AgraQuest has a collaboration with a major construction company to develop M. albus for the prevention and control of molds in buildings and other structures.