An enzyme inside a bacterium that grows in the soil of potato fields can -- in a split second -- break down residues of a common powerful pesticide used for killing worms on potatoes, researchers have found.
That may be expensive for farmers but lucky for the environment because University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientists have now discovered that if that particular enzyme weren’t there, it would take 10,000 years for just half of the widely used pesticide to decompose. And the chemical would remain in the soil of the potato fields where it is now used in colossal amounts, contaminating groundwater and posing a threat to human and animal health.
A report on the unusual discovery appears online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday (Oct. 24). Authors are Christopher M. Horvat, a UNC chemistry major from Spruce Pine, who plans to become a physician, and Dr. Richard V. Wolfenden, Alumni Distinguished professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the UNC School of Medicine.
David Williamson | EurekAlert!
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