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Out, Out Brown Spot 3/8 USDA Testing Treatment for Melon Ailment

May 4, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Agriculture Department scientists plan to test for the first time this summer a natural virus that attacks brown spot, a disease of honeydew melons and cantaloupe for which there is now no treatment.

″We isolated the virus from water in a channel that drains fields where melons and other crops are grown,″ said Cynthia G. Eayre, a plant pathologist with the Agricultural Research Service in Weslaco, Texas.

Brown spot occurs in honeydews and cantaloupe grown in California and Texas. Although its occurrence is sporadic, only a few diseased melons can lead the buyer to reject an entire shipment.

Because that makes the disease a threat to melons shipped to distant markets, it may pose more of a threat with the development of new overseas export markets.

The virus is a type known as a bacteriophage, or phage, which subverts a bacterial cell shortly after latching on to the cell’s surface.

″The phage injects its own genetic material into the cell,″ Eayre said. ″In response, the cell replicates 10 to 100 more phage particles and bursts, releasing them to spread to other bacterial cells. This summer, we will try using a liquid suspension of phages to see if they can prevent infection of harvested honeydew melons by brown-spot bacteria.″

Phages may hold promise as a nonchemical means of controlling a number of serious bacterial diseases of fruits, she said.

Eayre has had success in tests of different phages against soft rot, which she called a ″constant threat″ to potatoes. Those tests were done in collaboration with plant pathologist Jerry Bartz of the University of Florida.

She reported on her work at the annual science symposium sponsored by the service’s Beltsville, Md., center.

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States is donating 61,000 metric tons of feed wheat to Kyrgyzstan, an independent republic of the former Soviet Union.

Included in the $21.1 million donation are funds for ocean and overland transportation costs, said Christopher E. Goldthwait, acting general sales manager of the Agriculture Department’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

The wheat will be delivered to the government of Kyrgyzstan to be sold as animal feed to private and public livestock and poultry products.

Proceeds from the sales will be used to develop the country’s private sector agricultural economy through financial aid to private and family farms, and associations of agribusiness and cooperatives. Funds also will be used to improve health and nutrition programs.

The wheat is being donated under the authority of the Agricultural Act of 1949, which authorizes the donation of surplus commodities owned by the Commodity Credit Corporation to developing countries.

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