A University of B.C. Okanagan research team is warning of a ‘nightmare ooze’ that is killing cannabis plants.
Doctoral student Chris Dumigan says his team has identified and analyzed the potentially deadly fungus threatening the cannabis industry – Berkeleyomyces rouxiae, more commonly known as black root rot.
A former classmate from Ontario, Delaney Bray-Stone, had sent Dumigan some pictures of root rot. “They tested it for every available cannabis pathogen, and everything was fine. But if you look at the pictures of the initial infection, they were not fine,” Dumigan said.
“They had to wipe out a crop because it was killing all the plants, but they also had to shut down a wing of their facility and throw out a whole bunch of equipment. All the filters would form this thick, black sludge. Delaney still has nightmares about this thing because of how much stress it caused him.”
Dumigan was challenged to reproduce the fungus for a lab study and used an alternative growing media of carrot agar allowing for researching treatments.
“They’re using things like sulphur to control fungi or canola oil for insects. Some biological products were approved, but many were developed for other crops,” Dumigan said.
Dumigan was able to identify several species of bacteria that inhabit roots and secrete compounds that kill certain fungi.
“I’ve found several of them that kill this fungus, but none of this is published. It’s only a potential biocontrol, but they could be registered in Canada because it’s a certified organic option, not a conventional fungicide.”
The genome has been released for other researchers to study. Dumigan is also working on a sequence-based diagnostic test to help other producers avoid similar issues.
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