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Scientists weed out pesky poison ivy with discovery of killer fungus
Date:6/11/2014

Much to the chagrin of gardeners, hikers, and virtually anyone enjoying the outdoors, one of the hazards of summer is picking up an itchy poison ivy rash.

But researchers in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences have found a natural and effective way to kill poison ivy using a naturally occurring fungus that grows on the fleshy tissue surrounding the plant's seed, potentially giving homeowners and forest managers the ability to rid landscapes of the pernicious pest. Their findings could make the maddening itch of the summer season a thing of the past for the untold millions who are allergic to the plant.

The study published this week in Plant Disease is a first of its kind on a plant that affects millions but has had surprisingly little research done on it.

John Jelesko, an associate professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science, began studying the plant after experiencing a nasty poison ivy rash himself while doing some yard work. Much to his surprise, there was scant research focused on the plant itself. Most of the work was focused on urushiol, the rash-causing chemical found in the plant's oils. Urushiol is extremely potent. Only one nanogram is needed to cause a rash, and the oil can remain active on dead plants up to five years.

But rather than focusing on urushiol, Jelesko set about studying ways to kill the plant itself. He worked with Matt Kasson on the project, a senior research associate in the same department.

"This poison ivy research has the potential to affect the untold millions of people who are allergic to poison ivy," said John Jelesko, a Fralin Life Science Institute-affiliated faculty member. "We have the makings of a nonchemical way to control an invasive plant that can be used by homeowners and others who manage outdoor sites."

Their work is e
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Contact: Lori Greiner
lgreiner@vt.edu
540-231-5863
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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