Seeking Saponins and Other Compounds To Fortify Crops

Read the full story in Agricultural Research magazine.

The perennial herb soapwort, Saponaria officinalis, owes its prized cleansing foam to detergent-like compounds called “saponins.” But soapwort isn’t the only plant that produces the compounds; nor are their properties limited to removing dirt and grime.

In studies at the Agricultural Research Service’s National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria, Illinois, scientists are spiking laboratory diets fed to corn earworm and fall armyworm with saponins from soybeans, switchgrass, yerba maté, and other sources to determine what effects the compounds have on the caterpillar pests’ growth and survival.

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