Elemental Enzymes, a St. Louis biotechnology firm, has obtained the first patent for a natural peptide solution that is field-proven to treat Citrus Greening disease. Capable of killing healthy citrus trees in less than five years, this bacterial disease has impacted fruit yields by more than 40 percent on citrus crops such as oranges, causing more than $400M in grower losses annually with the financial impact reaching from grove to grocer.
Elemental Enzymes has developed, extensively field-tested and patented a naturally occurring peptide solution with the potential to deliver relief to the grove, and hope to the grower, while also enabling the industry to continue to affordably meet consumer demand for a wide range of citrus products.
This patented discovery by Elemental Enzymes CEO Dr. Brian Thompson culminated from the research of over 70 potential products on infected groves in Florida. The solution, named Vismax, is readying for commercialization and will reach market within the next few years.
Forty-five replicated field trials over the past four years have demonstrated that Vismax increases yield, reduces infection levels and accelerates tree recovery across Florida. Trials conducted throughout 2018 and 2019 showed a 19-25 percent increase of fresh fruit value on treated trees. In addition, Vismax-treated trees exhibited pronounced plant recovery from Citrus Greening symptoms, including a 95 percent reduction in Citrus Greening causing bacteria within eight weeks.
Vismax has been tested on over 10 citrus varieties and proven effective on the big three in Florida: oranges, grapefruits and tangerines. Dr. Thompson is optimistic about the sustainable impact of the patented, naturally occurring peptide solution and its promise to restore tree health and grower revenue.
“The project we’ve undertaken triggers a powerful long-term effect in the plant to defend itself against bacterial and fungal diseases. And, since it does not directly target microbes, there is little to no risk of antimicrobial resistance building over time with no adverse impacts to fruit taste or appearance possible with alternative treatments,” said Dr. Thompson.
Elemental Enzymes Senior Scientist and head of Biochemical Pesticides, Dr. Michelle Leslie, adds, “Using natural, non-toxic peptides to turn on the plant’s immune system is effective for fighting a wide range of plant infections, and a safer alternative to the widespread use of antibiotics that threaten ecosystems and human health. It’s striking to see the effect a small peptide can have on such heavily infected trees.”
And, the impact of this small peptide may reach well beyond the grove. Further Elemental Enzymes research shows similarly positive results on diseases in a broad range of row and specialty crops, including apples, almonds and grapes.
Dr. Thompson will be discussing the project with Vonnie Estes of the Produce Marketing Association as part of Crusonia Conversations on September 16th (Crusonia.org).