Columbia, Md.-based Certis USA has entered into a global licensing agreement with Montana State University and Montana BioAgriculture Inc. to develop and commercialize a biological systemic acquired resistance—or SAR—activator.

The product, isolated from sugar beets and developed by a team led by Montana State University plant pathology professor Barry Jacobsen, is based on Bacillus mycoides isolate J.

It is a nonpathogenic bacteria that triggers a plant's immune reaction to a pathogen, resulting in systemic acquired resistance.

SAR activators also have no direct activity on the pathogen.

Instead, they work much like a booster vaccine in humans, eliciting an immune response.

Unlike chemical SAR activators, BmJ has a lower risk of producing phytotoxicity and appears to produce SAR for longer periods.

Gary Vallad, an assistant plant pathology professor at the University of Florida's Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, has conducted trials with SAR elicitors over the years.

Although he has not looked at BmJ specifically, he says, "Any type of Rhizobcteria does seem to be a little bit safer. They don't seem to have as many issues with phytotoxicity."

Vallad also has promoted SAR activators as part of an integrated program to fight bacterial spot in tomatoes.

"We're still working with growers today getting [them] to adopt it," he says of SAR elicitor use.

Vallad did say he's interesting in including BmJ in future trials.

"As soon as it becomes avaialble, I will definitely test it," he says.