Biological control of Phytophthora root rot of citrus seedlings and cuttings.
Abraham, Abraha Okbasillasie.
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With an increasing realization that many agrochemicals are hazardous to animals and humans, came the desire to replace these chemical agents with biological approaches that are more friendly to the environment and human health. Microorganisms play an important role in plant disease control, as naturally occurring antagonists. Microorganisms may also have beneficial effects on plant development when applied to plant roots. Research efforts worldwide have recorded successes in biological control and growth stimulation on many crops, particularly when using members of the genera Bacillus and Trichoderma. Their use on citrus rootstock could be advantageous to nurserymen and growers in reducing the incidence of seedling mortality and increasing production. To achieve these objectives, laboratory and tunnel experiments were conducted to develop effective biocontrol agents for citrus seedlings and cuttings. Nineteen 0 ut 0 f 23 Trichoderma isolates tested in vitro against Phytophthora p arasitica sp showed antagonistic activity by hyperparasitism and four out of eight Bacillus isolates resulted in antagonism by forming inhibition zones. The positive in vitro activity of Trichoderma and Bacillus isolates on Phytophthora provided motivation step for further trials in the greenhouse to evaluate their biological control activity on citrus seedlings and cuttings. A greenhouse trial was carried out to evaluate the biological control potential of 23 Trichoderma isolates (drenched at 5 x 105 spores / rnI) and two Bacillus isolates (drenched at 1 X 106 or 1 X 108 colony forming units (CFU) / rnI) to suppress Phytophthora parasitica sp. of rough lemon (Citrus jambhirini Lush.) seedlings. Five isolates ofTrichoderma (AA12, AA5, Trichoderma harzianum (AA16), SY3F and Eco-T~ were highly effective in suppressing Phytophthora root rot, with AA12 providing the best control. The Bacillus isolates also suppressed the pathogen but were not as effective as the Trichoderma isolates. This trial was used to test for growth stimulation activity by some of the biocontrol agents. To verify these results, a further trial was carried out to evaluate growth stimulation capabilities in the absence of any pathogen. Trichoderma Isolates AA13 and AA17 caused no 111 change in seedling growth, while other Trichoderma and Bacillus isolates had an inhibitory effect on the seedling growth. This trial indicated that the biocontrol activity was affected by inoculum densities, and as a result in vitro sporulation capacity was evaluated. TrichodermaIsolate AA16 was the largest spore producer, followed by Eco-T®. Spore production was lowest from Trichoderma isolates AA4 and AA12. Growth stimulation responses of Trichoderma Isolates AA4, AA16, Eco-TID and SYN6 were further studied at four different doses (1 X 103, 1 X 104, 5 X 105 or 1 X 106 spores / ml) on rough lemon and trifoliate orange seedlings. Trifoliate oranges responded positively to 1 X 104 and 5 X 105 spores / ml of Eco-TID, but rough lemon responded negatively to all dosages of the Trichoderma isolates applied. This indicates that the inoculum density responses may be host specific. Higher population density of 1 X 106 spores / ml of all tested Trichoderma isolates had a stunting effect on seedling growth of both species. Based on t he positive results 0 f individual applications of some Trichoderma and Bacillus isolates, of the biological control agents on rough lemon seedlings against Phytophthora parasitica in an earlier greenhouse trial, their combined effect in the control of the pathogen was performed. Before carrying out a greenhouse trial, activities of the isolates to be combined were evaluated in vitro. This trial showed that Trichoderma Isolates AA16 and Eco-T®were compatible. Trichoderma isolates AA16 and Eco-T®were also found to be compatible with Bacillus Isolates B77, B81 and PHP. As a result, further in vivo trials were conducted. The tunnel trials were carried out as two separate experiments: In the first experiment, a combination of two Trichoderma Isolates A A 16 and Eco-T®was conducted assayed at 5 X 105 or 1 X 106 spores / ml, on rough lemon seedling, and cuttings and trifoliate orange and sour orange seedlings. A combination of Trichoderma isolate AA16 and Eco-T®at 5 X 105 spore / ml increased significantly the new flush biomass of rough lemon cuttings compared to AA16 alone, but was not different from Eco-TID alone. The combination of AA16 and Eco-T® achieved no change of biomass of rough lemon and trifoliate orange seedlings. The combination of AA16 and Eco-TID did not increase the root biomass of sour orange compared to AA16 or Eco-r® alone. The combination of AA16 and Eco-r® at higher doses (1 x 106 spores / ml) showed significantly better suppression of Phytophthora root rot of rough lemon cuttings but did not show disease suppression in all seedling species verities tested. In a second experiment, individual and combined effects of Trichoderma isolates (drenched at 5 X 105 spores / ml) with Bacillus isolate (drenched at 1 X 106 colony forming units (CFU) / ml) for suppression of Phytophthora root rot on rough lemon and trifoliate orange seedlings was performed. The combination of Trichoderma Isolate AA16 and Bacillus Isolate B81 increased root biomass on rough lemon seedlings compared to the combination of Trichoderma AAI6 or Bacillus PHP but was not significantly different to Trichoderma AA16 alone. Bacillus PHP combined with Trichoderma AA16 or singly had no effect on rough lemon seedlings. Combining Trichoderma Eco--r® and with Bacillus B8I or PHP did not increase biomass of rough lemon seedlings compared to Trichoderma Isolate Eco--r® alone. There was no statistically significant differences in the effects of the combinations of the Trichoderma and Bacillus isolates compared to their individual applications on the biomass of trifoliate oranges. This study established the antagonistic potential of several South African isolates of Trichoderma and Bacillus as a viable alternative to agrochemicals for controlling Phytophthora parasitica. The growth stimulation capabilities of Trichoderma isolates in terms of seedling development was also demonstrated.