He has had quite a lot of experience with combating tropical plant diseases. For two years the Bonn team, together with colleagues from the IITA in Benin and Nigeria, have been looking for a mould isolate which is guaranteed to be unable to produce aflatoxin ?after all, they do not want to fight Satan with Beelzebub. "Apart from that the aspergillus variant has to be so sturdy that it can assert itself against its toxic cousin in the wild," Professor Sikora says.
Promising strains among 3,000 isolates
The Federal Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development (the BMZ) is supporting the project until 2006 to the tune of a total of 1.2 million euros. The researchers have made an important advance: "We have examined 3,000 isolates in all and have come across several promising strains," Sebastian Kiewnick states. "Now we'll soon be conducting the first field trials." Should they be successful, the team want to develop a quick and easy method for propagating the non-toxic mould for use en masse.
There is no danger of additional damage as a result of 'inoculating' the fields with mould, it is claimed. "It can scarcely be prevented that maize or nuts will be infected to a certain extent with brown mould," Sebastian Kiewnick emphasises. "We can only influence which strain of aspergillus grows on it: a dangerous producer of toxins ?or the non-toxic variant."