Natural Antimicrobial Agent Derived from Biomass

Jeff Piotrowski, John Ralph, Fachuang Lu, Mehdi Kabbage, Robert Landick

Fungal pathogens pose one of the greatest economic threats to agriculture. Every year fungal infections – such as root rot, smut and powdery mildew – destroy about 125 million tons of the top five food crops globally. One pest, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, is responsible for a disease called white mold and causes $250 million in annual damages in the U.S. alone. Today, the majority of fungicides are synthetic or metal-containing, and therefore not compliant with USDA organic agriculture laws. The rise in pesticide-resistant strains and the risk to human health is driving the search for safe and effective alternatives.

The Invention

UW–Madison researchers have identified an antimicrobial agent produced as a byproduct of biomass processing. The agent is a diferulate compound called poacic acid (and sometimes also called ‘8-5-DC’). It has been shown to target and destroy the cell walls of several species of fungus and yeast.

Key Benefits
  • Demonstrates strong antifungal activity
  • Naturally derived
  • Consistent with organic farming
  • Adds value to the waste stream of biomass processing plants
  • Potential new antifungal, antimicrobial compound for agriculture and pharmaceuticals
Stage of Development

The compound has shown biological activity against the pathogens Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, Alternaria solani (early blight), Phytophthora sojae (stem and root rot), and the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Technology Contact

For current licensing status, please contact Mark Staudt at or (608) 265-3084.

Field-to-product integration