Inhibition of wood decay and termite damage by calcium precipitation
F Green III, T A Kuster, L Ferge, T L Highley
Fungal decay of wood in service, especially brown rot, results in billions of dollars (US) of losses annually. Recent environmental restrictions, both U.S. and international, are limiting or eliminating the use of broad spectrum biocides for wood preservation, primarily due to problems with disposal. In order to design new, environmentally benign methods for control of wood decay fungi, it is essential to understand the precise sequence of biochemical events as wood is colonized. The production of polygalacturonase (PG) and hydrolysis of bordered pit membranes during incipient brown-rot decay has recently been described by our laboratory. One key to pectin hydrolysis by plant pathogens has been shown to be fungal production of oxalic acid which lowers the pH of the substrate and chelates calcium ions. Production of oxalic acid may serve a similar role during incipient wood decay as calcium oxalate has been visualized by scanning electron microscopy during both brown-rot and white-rot decay. Therefore, it was hypothesized that in situ precipitation of existing calcium ions in wood may prevent the cascade of biochemical events involved in colonization of wood by brown-rot fungi, expecially hydrolysis of bordered pit membranes. Preliminary experiments in our laboratory have shown that brown-rot fungi, white-rot fungi, and termites are inhibited from effecting weight loss of wood following pretreatment of wood blocks with the selective water soluble calcium precipitating agent N,N-naphthaloylhydroxylamine (NHA).