Use mold to fight mold

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With light against mold

Molds destroy around a quarter of the world's food crops every year. The mycotoxins of mold are dangerous for humans and for other vertebrates, which can have a very harmful effect on health. For farms, mold infestation can become a problem if the loss of harvest means that the investments made can no longer be made.

By chance, the biologist Markus Schmidt-Heydt from the Max Ruber Institute for Nutrition in Karlsruhe discovered a way to combat mold in the future. Due to construction work, the biologist had to move with his mold cultures. At his new workplace, some mushrooms suddenly stopped growing due to the new, brighter environment. Instead of fighting mold with heat as in the past, he now tried to prevent the mold from growing with light. "For every mushroom there is a type of light that inhibits it," explains Schmidt-Heydt. Using colored filters, which are also used for light effects at theater and concert events, he found out that a different color is required for each mushroom in order to die. Cereals and maize infested with fusariums can be protected with red light.

Be sure to dispose of food in the event of fungal infestation “Mold is still one of the major unsolved problems in agriculture,” explains Schmidt-Heydt. Due to the strong toxic effect, food should be disposed of in the event of fungal attack, the biologist advises. Heating or boiling does not help. "The fungus dies, but the poison sometimes only breaks down at 300 degrees." Together with his colleague, he designed a light box in the chamber of which he can irradiate different types of mushrooms with different types of light and frequencies. "With weak blue light you can inhibit the fungi in toxin formation, with strong one you can inhibit their growth. And with very strong blue light you can kill them," explains the researcher. However, research is still at the very beginning of its possibilities. The professor of bioanalytics at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Ebrahim Razzazi-Fazel, also sees this approach as a good way to prevent mold infestation in the future. "

Preventing toxin formation by light induction is a promising strategy, "he says. Even if mold formation is difficult to prevent, the destruction of the toxins is a good starting point. The biologist Schmidt-Heydt meanwhile is thinking about ways in which a" light therapy " "It would be possible to make warehouses in the Third World mold-proof using special stained glass panels that provide the right light." (fr)

Image: M. Großmann /

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