Golf Course Management

SEP 2013

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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THE INSIDER: turf Fire ant venom: A natural fungicide? (Solenopsis invicta) has been a signifcant pest in turfgrass in the United States ever since its introduction sometime between 1918 and 1930. The tables appear to be turning, however, as scientists may have discovered a benefcial use for fre ant venom. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service's Biological Control of Pests Research Unit in Stoneville, Miss., have found that venom from red imported fre ants contains alkaloid compounds (piperideine and piperidine alkaloids) that can prevent the development of a soil-borne pathogen, Pythium ultimum. The pathogen is one of several causal agents of the pythium root-rot complex in turfgrass and also causes damping-off diseases that affect seeds and seedlings in crops worldwide. Pythium diseases are currently controlled by chemical fungicides. ARS microbiologist Xixuan Jin and coworker entomologist Jian Chen in Mississippi worked cooperatively with Shezeng Li from the Institute of Plant Protection in Baoding, China, to explore the possible use of fre ant venom for managing plant pathogens in the soil. The researchers extracted both the piperideine and piperidine alkaloids from the venom glands of red and black imported fre ants. The two alkaloids were tested on P. ultimum mycelia and sporangia in petri dishes, and separate solutions of the alkaloids were applied in a drench to cucumber seedlings in the greenhouse. The venom alkaloids successfully reduced P. ultimum mycelia and sporangia, and cucumber seedlings treated with the alkaloids were taller than the untreated seedlings. The successful petri-dish and greenhouse experiments have led the researchers to conclude their results "may lead to the development of a new group of fungicides." Because fre ants are plentiful in the southern United States, the source of the raw materials for new fungicides based on the fre ant venom alkaloids is assured. However, extracting and purifying enough of the alkaloids for commercial production on a large-scale basis would require a major effort. Researchers at the University of Mississippi have developed synthetic versions of The red imported fre ant NEWS & notes JoAnne Crouch, a scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service's systematic Mycology and Microbiology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., was able to identify the fungus that causes anthracnose disease in centipedegrass in the southern U.S. Crouch, a contributor to the research section of GCM, discovered that the fungus infecting centipedegrass was Colletotrichum eremochloae and not C. sublineola as had been thought. Crouch was able to identify the fungus by referring to the USDA's collection of more than a million reference specimens of fungi. Identifying the correct pathogen makes it possible for turf managers to apply appropriate fungicides for disease control. Presented in partnership with Barenbrug 38 GCM September 2013 The red imported fre ant, Solenopsis invicta, has been a pest of turfgrass and crops ever since it was brought to the United States from South America. Photo by Richard Nowitz (USDA/ARS) the alkaloids, which may better lend themselves to large-scale production. In addition, more research on disease-control mechanisms and phytotoxicity is required before work can proceed on developing a commercial product. The information in this column was taken from "Fire ant venom compounds may be useful as a fungicide" by Jan Suszkiw published in the August 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. The original research article was: S. Li, X.Jin and J.Chen. 2012. Effects of piperidine and piperideine alkaloids from the venom of red imported fre ants, Solenopsis invicta Buren, on Pythium ultimum Trow growth in vitro and the application of piperideine alkaloids to control cucumber damping-off in the greenhouse. Pest Management Science 68:1546-1552. doi: 10.1002/ps.3337.

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