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Research and development of natural antifungal compounds for seed treatment and post-harvest application in fruits and vegetables


Brazil stands out as a great producer in terms of fruits and vegetables. However much of what is produced is lost during the post-harvest stage. These losses can have several causes, such as: physiological processes; physical effects of handling; and diseases, especially those caused by fungi. These diseases make fruit unsuitable for consumption, causing losses to producers, retail outlets and consumers. Fungi are also of great importance in seed pathology, since approximately 90% of the cultures used for feeding are propagated via seeds. Currently the control of these pathogens is carried out with the use of toxic synthetic fungicides, which represent a potential risk to the environment and to the health of living beings. Continued use can determine the appearance of problems, such as the resistance of fungi to the main molecules used. At the same time, the use of fungicides may prevent the export of fruits to some consuming markets due to residues above tolerable limits. In this scenario, compounds with antimicrobial activity, such as essential oils, become effective alternatives and with low environmental impact for the control of fungi. The company ORION, resident in the ESALQ-USP (ESALQTEC), is specialized in the research, development, formulation and production of alternative antifungals for post-harvest application of fruits and vegetables and for the treatment of seeds. Preliminary studies have revealed the benefits of essential oil extracted from Lippia sidoides as a potential and efficient alternative to chemical and toxic fungicides. The use of essential oils can add value to products, improve fruit quality and increase the profitability of production chains. In order to research and develop this product, ORION intends to establish formulations with the following properties: fungistatic or competitive fungistatic action; brightness lecture in fruit; minimizing the effects of respiration; and decrease of moisture loss of fruits. The main activities that will be developed in the project are: extraction of the essential oil of Lippia sidoides; determination of the chemical composition of the essential oil by gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry; preparation of test formulations; isolation of pathogens of interest; evaluation of in vitro and in vivo antifungal activity of fruit formulations; and determination of minimum inhibitory concentration; evaluation of the in vitro and in vivo antifungal activity of the formulation in seeds. At the end of the project it is expected to be able to develop efficient, alternative and low environmental impact products for post-harvest application of fruits and vegetables and for seed treatment. With this, the technical and economic viability of the business can be increased, reaching the conventional and organic markets of fruits, vegetables and seeds. (AU)

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