DAVID GADOURY: Virtually all crop plants are attacked by a group of pathogens called powdery mildews. They are very highly evolved pathogens. And they're very good at developing resistance to fungicides or to resistant varieties. We need alternative methods of controlling these pathogens. And one method that appears to be working quite well for us is the use of UV light.
UV light damages almost all living organisms in the same way. It damages the chemical structure of your DNA. What makes it possible for us to use UV to control these plant pathogens is we apply UV at night. So we can affect the pathogens with very small doses of UV light during the nighttime, doses that don't really affect the plant. And that's really the key to using UV light to suppress a plant disease and also to suppress certain insect pests.
LANCE CADLE-DAVIDSON: A typical grape grower will spray chemical fungicides for powdery mildew management anywhere between 10 and 15 times each year. That has a huge cost to our environment through the chemicals used, to the fossil fuels used to power the tractor, through soil compaction, effects on bees, effect on soils.
The pathogen is constantly evolving to overcome those few chemicals that are still effective against powdery mildew. This UV application will reduce the chemicals required and the effect of those chemicals on the environment.
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Cornell AgriTech researchers use robots to deliver ultraviolet light to grape vines at night to effectively treat powdery mildew, a devastating crop disease.