Kiwis look to save kiwifruit using algae’s defenses

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In New Zealand, two students at University of Waikato are studying whether algae hold the key to saving the kiwifruit industry from a devastating bacteria outbreak.

Claire Voogt and Taylor Farr, both Master of Science students at UofW, have received the 2019 Sir Don Llewellyn Fieldays scholarship to investigate whether metabolites from algae could treat Psa, a bacterium that cost New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry $1 billion since it was discovered in 2010.

Voogt said marine species such as algae evolved chemical defenses to Psa, which is less often found terrestrially. “Each organism has different features and responds to different conditions or environments, so it’s possible that these marine algae may be exploited to maximize the production of desired compounds and be used in commercial applications,” she tells Stuff.com.

Farr adds that it is important to develop “alternative control methods… [and that in time], there may be potential for growing different algae for commercial use across a range of pathogens.”