Don’t shoot the Messenger – spray it on

The battle with vineyard pests has entered an interesting new phase with the product Messenger, a new weapon in the farmer’s arsenal.
Issue date 15 June 2007

”This product is based on the naturally occurring protein harpin,” says Charlie Bender, SA national technical advisor for ­Messenger. “When sprayed on, it fools the plant into believing that it is under serious attack. But the plant still thinks that it can do something about the problem, so it ­rallies its immune and defence systems to ­retaliate. But, because the threat is not as serious as it has been led to believe, the plant overcompensates. The result is an unprecedented growth spurt and a marked increase in produce quality and quantity.

“Klein Constantia farm near Cape Town provides an almost perfect demonstration of Messenger’s effects,” Bender continues. “In one corner of the Riesling block, conditions are ideal for the development of grey rot caused by the Botrytis cinerea fungus. High trees to the east shade the vines until mid-morning, and to the southeast other trees shelter it from the beneficial drying effects of the prevailing winds. Under these ­conditions botrytis flourishes, and the production of this corner of an otherwise successful vineyard block has been below average.

Messenger beats botrytis

“Then along comes Messenger. Suddenly this quiet little ­backwater is under attack! The vines summon their immune system to ward it off and reduce the botrytis infection,” Bender says. “And because the treated vines now have so much surplus energy, they push out a whole new layer of growth – even in late summer. Now, the formerly ­disappointing corner is performing with the best. Meanwhile, Cabernet vines are battling the effects of leaf roll, a virus that causes the leaves to discolour and curl under. This reduces photosynthetic output, depriving the grapes of vital nutrients and stunting their growth. Messenger stimulates the plant’s defence and immunisation mechanisms that it ­appreciably reduces the effects of leaf roll.”

Messenger can be used on many other crop types, not only grapes. It can be applied directly to the soil in the form of drenches, to seeds even before germination and to picked or harvested produce to prolong shelf life. Because it is derived from a naturally occurring enzyme, there is no harmful residue. Whatever remains after it has achieved its purpose biodegrades.

Messenger ST seed treatment is applied directly to seed to increase the yield and quality of the crop. Harpin protein, the active ingredient of Messenger ST, acts like a pathogen attacking the seed. When the seed germinates it is stimulated to grow and build up its own natural defence ­system. Seed treated with Messenger ST has better germination and higher yields. When sprayed onto a crop, Messenger Foliar Spray acts like a pathogen to initiate physiological and ­biochemical processes that stimulate the plant’s natural defence system and growth. The results are better disease control, fewer viruses, increased yield, better-quality crops and longer shelf life.

For more information contact Auriel Mitchley on (011) 889 0796 or e-mail [email protected]