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Cabbage Juice Fights Fungus
July 4, 2014   
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Polish scientists have used cabbage juice to produce an environmentally-friendly replacement for synthetic pesticides.

Cabbage contains active substances that have fungicidal and bactericidal properties, the scientists say. These substances inhibit the growth of parasites and repel herbivores.

It is enough to squeeze juice from the vegetable and separate these substances. The preparation obtained in this way can be used to protect plants and fruit. It is as effective as chemicals used for this purpose, according to scientists from the Industrial Chemistry Research Institute in Warsaw and their colleagues from the Faculty of Chemistry at the Gdańsk University of Technology in the northern city of Gdańsk, and the University of Agriculture in the southern city of Cracow.

The scientists teamed up to work together on a cabbage concentrate with fungicidal and bactericidal properties. The project took three years and yielded a non-toxic preparation that can replace synthetic pesticides used in crop protection, the researchers say.

According to Irena Grzywa-Niksińska from the Industrial Chemistry Research Institute in Warsaw, the preparation can also be used to soak seeds before sowing. This will make the seeds more resistant to fungi. Another application of the preparation is for protecting fruit during transport and distribution. Today chemicals are most commonly used for this purpose.

The preparation can also be used as a disinfectant to destroy fungi in warehouses, slaughterhouses, hospitals and swimming pools. Its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties will also come in handy in papermaking technology for the production of packaging paper to protect food from high temperatures and humidity.

“We also plan to work with cosmetic companies because antibacterial preparations are used in cosmetics,” says Grzywa-Niksińska.

The substances with fungicidal and bactericidal properties that are found in cabbage include glucosinolates and the products of their decomposition—isothiocyanates and indoles. These substances are also found in other cruciferous plants, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and kale.

“However, we have checked that the richest source of these is the variety of white cabbage that can most often be found in Polish fields,” says Grzywa-Niksińska.

Active substances are essential for plants to repel pests that feed on them. But these substances are present in plants in very small quantities. The scientists have found a way to isolate these substances from cabbage in large quantities in concentrated form and have developed a fungicidal and bactericidal preparation from them. First they squeeze juice from the cabbage and then isolate biocidal compounds from the juice.

Only 800 ml of juice can be squeezed from a kilogram of the vegetable. Therefore many cabbage heads are needed to obtain adequate amounts of the compounds.

Cabbages contain active substances called glucosinolates. When the plant is attacked by pest or when chemical contaminants reach it from the soil, glucosinolates decompose into bactericidal and fungicidal isothiocyanates and indoles. Their biocidal efficacy is comparable to that of synthetic pesticides.

The preparation won a medal at the IWIS International Invention Show in Warsaw last year. It is already patented and talks are in progress with potential licensees to produce it on an industrial scale.

The research was conducted as part of the “Using white cabbage for the purposes of soil phytoremediation and biofumigation” project completed in 2013 under the European Union’s Innovative Economy 2009-2013 Operational Programme.

Olga Majewska
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