Biotalys announced it has been awarded a multi-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to discover new antifungal biocontrols for deployment to smallholder farmers. The project, identified as “Agrobodies for Crop Protection”, focuses on leveraging Biotalys’ Agrobody Foundry technology platform to discover protein-based biofungicides with the ability to control Cercospora canescens, the causative agent of leaf spot disease, an important devastating disease of cowpea and other legumes.
Cowpeas – often referred to as “black-eyed peas” after one of its subspecies – are a subsistence crop, providing millions of mainly African farmers an affordable source of proteins. According to estimates, cowpeas are cultivated on 14.5 million hectares of land, have a worldwide production of 6.2 million tonnes, and are consumed by over 200 million people on a daily basis. While the broad range of cowpea varieties has enabled to access more resistant varieties in certain growing regions, the impact of the leaf spot disease (Cercospora canescens) can still decimate up to 40% of the production for smallholder growers.
Patrice Sellès, CEO of Biotalys, stated: "Providing these growers with affordable tools to protect the yield and quality of their crops without compromising the health of their soils and the safety of their families creates an economical and societal benefit that cannot be achieved with existing chemical crop protection.”