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Wild grape yeast could be a safe and eco-friendly pesticide

Pesticides can be extremely damaging to the environment and our health. As we reported recently, 75 percent of the world’s honey contains harmful pesticides detrimental to bee populations.

But now, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Milan has found a natural alternative to chemical pesticides in wild grape yeast.

“The ‘wild’ environment represents a huge and largely untapped source of biodiversity, which could provide a reservoir of helpful microbes for pest control,” said Lleana Vigentini, one of the study’s researchers.

The team of researchers discovered that yeast strains in wild grapes and even locally farmed grapes are an effective combatant against common grape mold.

Previously it was thought that yeasts, which are a type of fungi found naturally in plants, could help fight mold in crops. But until now, researchers haven’t found any yeasts that work as well chemicals pesticides.

For the study, the researchers collected and identified yeasts from farmed grapes in Italy and wild grapes in Georgia, Italy, Romania, and Spain.

The team wanted to see if the yeasts could effectively fight three molds that commonly ruin grape harvests. After analyzing each in the lab, they found that 18 strains of yeast from the wild grapes had anti-mold properties.

Natural yeasts are effective as pesticides because they release enzymes that digest the mold’s cell wall and release acetic acid that kills the mold.

The results showed that one of yeast strains was even better at killing mold than chemical pesticides and that this strain doesn’t affect the grapes or wine fermentation.

The researchers hope to now test the yeast strains from wild grapes in vineyards to see if they can serve as a successful pesticide in agricultural practice.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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