Garlic for your flora

Two South County teenagers Dave struck another blow for the healing properties of garlic — this time for plants.
Ben Fohner of Gilroy and Quinn Kennett of Morgan Hill, both ninth-graders at Bellarmine, tied for third place at the Santa Clara County Science Fair with their project that shows garlic can act as an antibiotic for plants.
“We read a little bit about all the claims to fame with garlic for humans,” Fohner said. “We decided to do it on plant bacteria.”
The students used a lab at Goldsmith seeds to test their hypothesis, and they also received some guidance from Goldsmith Seeds plant pathologist Darryl Thomas.
“They had the idea of what they wanted to do,” Thomas said. “I helped a little bit on the mechanics.”
Fohner and Kennett sterilized three cloves of garlic and tried their idea on the bacteria, Xanthamonas Campestris P.V. Zinniae that lives in plants.
“It lives within the water conductivity tissues and can cause leaf spots and stem lesions,” Thomas said. “It can be lehal to the plant under certain environmental conditions.”
After two days, Kennett and Fohner checked their samples and discovered a bacteria-free area in a ring around the garlic.
The garlic proved to be effective against the bacteria, at least in the petri dish.
“I was surprised at the activity it did have,” Thomas said. “We compared it to some of the antibiotics, and it was fairly strong or stronger than them.”
Using garlic as a plant antibiotic also has another benefit, according to Quinn.
“Most bacteria can’t become resistant to garlic, because if it tried to, the enzymes they produce to function would not survive,” he said.
The students were already aware of garlic’s other healing properties, such as being good for high blood pressure and acting as an antibiotic in humans.
Garlic has been used as an insect repellent,” Thomas said. “I’m not aware of it being used for any disease control.”
Patsy Ross, in charge of marketing for garlic growers Christopher Ranch, had not heard of garlic being used against bacteria in plants.
“I know it worked that way in people, (and) we already do have customers using garlic in a spray form, I believe as a pesticide,” she said.
Christopher Ranch focuses on growing, packaging and selling garlic, but not on marketing garlic as an insecticide or antibiotic, Ross said.
“As far as us adding that as a product, I doubt it, but we always look at everything,” she said.
The students will take their discovery south next month to the California State Science Fair on May 24-25 in Los Angeles. The Santa Clara County Science Fair Association will pay for the trip for the two, who advanced to the county fair after winning the grand prize at Bellarmine’s science fair.
While Kennett is still undecided about his future, Fohner is leaning toward a science career.
“I’m interested in science a lot,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated by science and how they answer the questions that seem so big.”

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