David M. Granger


AUBURN -- The EPA has approved a completely natural alternative to ozone-depleting methyl bromide developed by an Auburn University researcher in collaboration with researchers at Akdeniz University in Turkey.

Sadik Tuzun, a researcher and associate professor in the Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology at AU, says his compound -- called BioFume and developed from natural herbs indigenous to the eastern Mediterranean region of Turkey -- is at least as effective as methyl bromide as a soil-sterilizing fumigant and carries none of the environmental and human health risks.

"We have been researching this alternative for 15 years," he says. "With the current congressionally-mandated phaseout of methyl bromide, we think our alternative will prove to be a very competitive one without any adverse environmental circumstances."

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has also approved a pesticide developed from the same natural herbs. Called BioBug, Tuzun sees it as an alternative to the widely used pyrethrin.

Methyl bromide is the most widely used soil fumigant in the world, but Congress in 1998 mandated incremental reductions in the production and import of methyl bromide culminating in a 100 percent reduction by 2005.

Studies have shown that bromines in methyl bromide contributed to the depletion of stratospheric ozone at a rate of more than 50 times that of chlorines in CFCs contained in many aerosol propellants.

Tuzun said since Auburn has a patent pending and EPA approval for BioFume and BioBug and the next step is extensive testing in the United States.

A small Auburn-based business, Natural Agricultural Development and Marketing, has applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to complete this phase and is interested in marketing the product as soon as possible to U.S. farmers.

"We are excited about beginning this marketing process," Tuzun said. "The research we've done shows that it, in the case of BioFume, not only does it kill detrimental organisms in the soil, but increases populations of beneficial organisms. The results of our field studies in Turkey were amazing and we think the agricultural community will quickly see the promise of these products."

The idea of using natural plant products to combat agricultural pests first occurred to Tuzun's associate at Akdeniz University, Oktay Yegen. Yegen was inspired by the use of wild herbs in traditional folk medicines in the eastern Mediterranean region of Turkey. Since 1976, Yegen has published articles on the antifungal and antibacterial capabilities of more than 150 wild herbs.

Tuzun has been working on the natural soil sterilizer and pesticide since 1993, developing and experimenting with different herb combinations and mixtures, performing chemical analyses and improving the herb species to attain higher levels of the active ingredients through tissue cultures and non-seed propagation.

If his marketing efforts are successful, Tuzun is excited not only about the environmentally-friendly nature of his compound, but also about the boon it should provide to farmers in his native country.

"The area where these herbs grow wild is not conducive to many types of agriculture," Tuzun said. "If these herbs are needed for production of a substance that proves important to farmers internationally, it will give farmers in this region a profitable crop and increase their economic viability while controlling erosion."

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CONTACT: Tuzun, 334-844-1997.