Associate professor Soheil Mahmoud (second from right) with his research team at UBC Okanagan’s lavender field.
A popular purple plant may be even more beneficial than first thought.
An associate biology professor at UBC Okanagan is exploring lavender’s ability to create natural pesticides in addition to its strong scent and soothing oils.
Soheil Mahmoud conducts research on organic compounds found in plants like lavender, which he says has more to offer.
“Lavender has proven to be very good at protecting itself through production of antimicrobial and anti-fungal biochemical compounds,” says Mahmoud. “One of our goals is to identify molecules that are involved in this natural self-defence.”
Using a research field at UBC’s Okanagan campus, Mahmoud and his team of students are attempting to identify, characterized and clone the specific genes that control the defensive properties of lavender. If this is indeed possible, Mahmoud suggests this may have significant environmental implications.
Traditionally, chemical herbicides or pesticides have been used to control fungal growth or pests like insects. But Mahmoud says this method is becoming less and less desirable as many of the pests and fungi have become resilient to the chemicals used, and as consumers prefer food that is untreated or treated with “natural” pesticides.
“We’ve become much more health conscious,” he says. “There are healthier options instead of spraying chemicals on plants; we just need to explore these. Aromatic plants like lavenders could provide suitable alternatives to chemical–based insecticides.”