Plant extracts that naturally increase crop resistance to disease provide a promising alternative to harmful fungicides

Powdery mildew is a hard to control fungus that can devastate a wide range of crops from cucumbers and zucchini to almonds and berries. Typical management of this disease includes the use of strong fungicides and Sulphur, which is associated with environmental and human health risks. However, a recent study in Scientific Reports identified a plant extract that boosts plant defenses to help prevent fungal infection in the first place, which reduces the need for chemical management. The study tested the effectiveness of giant knotweed extract on inducing resistance to powdery mildew in zucchini plants. Spraying the leaves with this extract triggered plant defenses including increased production of hydrogen peroxide and salicylic acid that, in turn, reduce the occurrence of powdery mildew significantly. Yield tended to increase on plants with more resistance, although the effect was not statistically significant.