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New plant defence elicitors and their use for crop protection

Contact : mail to Bernard DUMAS

The spectacular growth of agricultural productivity during the twentieth century was made possible thanks to several remarkable developments in farming techniques : genetic selection, agrochemicals, mechanised and intensive production. This revolution in agricultural practices has, however, generated numerous environmental problems with the excessive use of pesticides, nitrates and phosphates. We now need to develop environmentally friendly farming techniques rapidly.

Pathogenic microorganisms represent major threats for all crops and disease control requires the extensive use of synthetic pesticides. A strong reduction of pesticide usage (60 000 tons yearly in France) is a major goal for environmental policies and the objective of the French ECOPHYTO2018 program is to reduce by half pesticide usage by 2018. In this context, two major strategies should be developed : (i) identification and development of bioactive compounds able to stimulate plant immunity, and (ii) genetic improvement of crops for resistance to disease (see section Genetic improvement of crops). Concerning the first strategy, several collaborative projects have been launched involving our team and industrial partners to identify new inducers of plant immunity. One of these projects, Néoprotec, supported by the Pôle de Compétitivité Agrimip Innovation and recently funded by the “Fond Unique Interministériel“ (FUI), aims at producing new commercial biofungicides by using high-throughput activity tests developed in our group. These studies are extremely important to optimize the performance of these compounds in the field, integrate their use in agricultural practices and to evaluate their long-term impact on the environment.

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Ulvan, new elicitors of plant immunity
An extract able to induce plant defense reactions was obtained from green algae (Ulva sp.). Purification of the active molecules allowed identification of Ulvan, a sulfated polysaccharide. This compound is able to activate defense reactions controlled by the jasmonic acid parthway.