I am passionate about my work on natural products and together with my research Team are working towards alleviating and preventing the environmental damage caused by obsolete agricultural practices!
Natural Products in Agriculture: can we devise sustainable practices?
The interactions of plants with pests and pathogens involve a wide range of chemical reactions, some of which transform highly bioactive natural products into harmless products, i.e. detoxification reactions. The outcome of these interactions leads frequently to enormous losses of primary crops such as rice, wheat, corn, potatoes, oilseeds, etc. For these reasons, over the past several decades, agricultural pests and pathogens have been controlled by the use of pesticides. However, it is obvious that many of the past and current agricultural practices are not sustainable. Therefore, the discovery of novel strategies that prevent crop losses due to pests and diseases is of vital importance.
Of crucifers and fungi: the winters of happiness and the summers of discontent!
Our approach to design alternative strategies to control plant pathogens requires a chemical-ecological understanding of the secondary metabolism (formation and roles of natural products) of the plant and the pathogen. We are using chemistry and biochemistry techniques to decipher and control metabolic processes underlying important plant fungal diseases. For example, our extensive work on the biosynthesis and biotransformation of phytoalexins indicates that different pathogens utilize different pathways to transform the same phytoalexin, whereas the biotransformation of toxins by plants demonstrates that different plant species transform a pathogen's toxin using identical pathways. These results suggest that such plant pathways are conserved across species and genera, whereas pathogens have unique detoxification reactions, indicating that we can control such pathogens!