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Researchers in the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences Receive Patent
Professors James Muchovej (left) and Oghenekome U. Onokpise in the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences were issued a patent titled Mycoherbicide for Controlling Cogongrass.

January 16, 2013

. – Professors James Muchovej and Oghenekome U. Onokpise in the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS) at Florida A&M University (FAMU) were issued a patent titled Mycoherbicide for Controlling Cogongrass.

Cogongrass is a perennial rhizomatous grass native to east and southeast Asia, India, Micronesia, Australia, and eastern and southern Africa. It is used for thatching the roofs of traditional homes throughout southeast Asia.

The significance of the U.S. Patent #8,278,248 is that mycoherbicide for controlling Cogongrass deals with a specialized fungus, which is able to cause significant disease on Cogongrass thereby stopping its ability to grow and become invasive. Currently, Cogongrass is managed and ineffectively controlled by herbicides at a cost of nearly $20 million a year to the state of Florida. Residues from these herbicides are potentially toxic to the environment with significant impacts to many of the natural ecosystems. This fungal organism, discovered by scientists Muchovej and Onokpise, provides potential for controlling Cogongrass without the use of pesticides and dramatically reducing the cost of managing it. Cogongrass is considered one of the world’s top ten devastating, invasive species and noxious weeds worldwide. It is ranked among the top seven worst invasive plant species in Florida and the Southeastern United States and is extremely damaging to native areas as well as to crop land.  This discovery has the possibility of helping to control and manage Cogongrass not only here in the United States, but also worldwide.

K. Ken Redda, professor and acting vice president for Research, said, “I salute the achievements of these two outstanding FAMU CAFS researchers.  It speaks volumes about the high quality of research engagement by Drs. Muchovej and Onokpise in the area of agricultural sciences.  It exemplifies the best of collaborative effort.”

Robert W. Taylor, professor and dean of CAFS, expressed his excitement regarding the patent.

“This is a good example of biological control which is using one organism to control another without the use of noxious chemicals to further contaminate our environment,” said Taylor, who is also the director of the Land Grant Programs.  “The idea to take this approach involving a microbe to control Cogongrass, which is very invasive in forests throughout the Southeast is very creative, indeed, and indicates the quality of faculty we have at FAMU in the CAFS.”

About the inventors:
James Muchovej, a professor of plant pathology, has a doctorate in plant pathology and physiology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg, Va. and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. He has taught many undergraduate and graduate courses since arriving at FAMU in 1992. Prior to joining FAMU, he was an associate professor of plant pathology at the Universidade Federal de Viçosa in Brazil where he taught undergraduate and graduate plant pathology courses from 1977 until 1991. In 2012, Professor Muchovej received a graduate Blended and Online Teaching certificate from the Florida State University College of Education. He has more than 90 refereed research journal articles and two books on seed treatment and mycology.

Oghenekome U. Onokpise, professor and interim associate dean, obtained his baccalaureate in agriculture at the University of Ife, Nigeria in 1974, his master’s degree in plant breeding and genetics from the University of Guelph, Canada in 1980, and his doctorate in tree breeding and forest genetics at the Iowa State University, Ames, in 1984.  In 1985-1986, he did post-doctoral research in plant biotechnology at the Ohio State University.  He has more than 30 years of teaching and research experience, 30 years of international program activities, a combined 21 years of experience in cooperative extension and outreach activities and more than 20 years of combined administrative experience as a coordinator, director and associate dean levels in academics, research and international programs.  In 2008, Onokpise received the Stephen Spurr Award from the Florida Division of the Society of American Foresters for technical contributions to forestry in Florida.

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