Photos: Microbes versus insects
Pam Marrone, Agraquest
To read the story "Recruiting microbes to do the dirty work," click here.
Bug filled rooms
More insect samples. It's pretty tough to find a room in AgraQuest's main building not filled with bugs.
The final product--a dried sample of the fungicide Serenade. The home version, sold in a solution, is in the background.
A 7,000-liter fermentation tank where test batches of Serenade and other biopesticides are brewed. The company has acquired a plant in Mexico for mass production.
Cocoons found at Lake Berryessa, Calif. AgraQuest essentially locates bugs, examines their microbes and then tries to breed the ones that secrete chemicals useful to humans.
Fridges filled with bugs
Bugs 'R' Us: AgraQuest's development lab is chockablock with fridges and containers filled with flying and crawling insects.
Not potato salad, moth salad
Don't take a container if it doesn't belong to you. These refrigerated dishes, which in ordinary corporate offices would be filled with half-eaten potato salad, contain army moth worms, a pest that causes billions in crop damage a year.
Army moth worms
Army moth worms up close. Traditionally, farmers have used chemical sprays to kill them, but a chemical residue remains on the plant. AgraQuest has devised organic pesticides for killing the bugs up to the time of harvest. The recently discovered fungus muscador, found in a Central American cinnamon tree, secretes gases that can kill them too. The company will ultimately try to include muscador in its products.
Aphids. Ugh. A plant extract discovered by a Canadian company may help control them better.
This machine is essentially a big magnet for exciting molecules so that scientists can study their composition. The structure of the molecule must be documented prior to EPA approval.