Ido Izhaki - Current research project

Development of a novel glucosinolate-containing desert plant (Ochradenus baccatus) for control of soil-borne diseases in the Middle East

(with Dr. Yoram Gerchman, Dr. Yuji Oka, Dr. Roni Cohen, Dr. A. Saleh, Dr. B. Masadeh, Dr. A. Dababat)

Project description:

The Jordan Valley is world renowned as an area rich in human and natural history. This region, which includes parts of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, has undergone a massive expansion of agriculture over the past 50 years. While modern agricultural techniques have significantly increased yields, they have also resulted in significant negative environmental impacts such as decreased biodiversity and ecological imbalance. Such methods depend heavily on the use of chemicals for enriching poor soil and controlling pest plants and animals (herbicides/pesticides). While such chemicals could be very effective they tend, as xenobiotic, to be persistence and accumulate in the environment and have multiple unpredictable side effects. In recent years, public pressure to reduce the use of such synthetic chemicals in agriculture has increased. Concerns have been raised about both environmental impact and potential health risks related to the use of such chemicals. Therefore, considerable efforts have been made toward the development of alternative methods to protect crops, among them, the use of natural pesticides. Natural anti-fungal and nematicidal compounds can replace or reduce the use of synthetic pesticides while breaking down readily in soil, thereby avoiding the above effects. Furthermore, crops grown with natural replacements could be marketed as free/reduced herbicides/pesticides, gaining better profit for the farmers. This is especially true if one use native plants as the source for pesticides, as is the case here. The overall aim of the project is to test whether Ochradenus baccatus, a the native desert and Jordan Valley plant and its naturally occurring glucosinolates can be used to control soil-borne diseases in the Middle East in general and in the Jordan Valley specifically. The project technical objectives are:  (1) Demonstrate the activity of O. baccatus fresh or dry material in a soil environment against soil-borne pests (2) Identify the range of organisms against which the glucosinolates (GLS) of Ochradenus baccatus and its isothiocyanates (ITC) degradation products have activity, (3) Isolate and identify novel GLS compound from O. baccatus and test for their toxicity against soil-borne pests (nematodes and fungi), (4) Compare content and level of activity of O. baccatus vs. plant species (mustards) presently used in biofumigation and (5) Evaluate of the effect of O. baccatus biofumigation in the greenhouse and in the field.

Distribution map of Ochradenus baccatus

Ochradenus baccatus in the Arava Valley, Israel                  (Photo: Alon Lotan)

Ochradenus baccatus- germionation trials     (Photo: Alon Lotan)

This project is supported by the Middle East Regional Cooperation Program (MERC) $600,000 (2009-2013)