In vitro and in vivo screening of Bacillus spp. for biological control of Rhizoctonia solani.
The increasing concerns about chemical pesticides that are environmentally hazardous and the continuous development of resistance by palhogens to chemical pesticides have led to this study. Many studies have shown that some Gram-negative bacteria, such as Pseudomonas flouresens, control plant diseases and promote plant growth. In this study Gram positive bacteria, Bacillus sp., were chosen because of their ability to produce endospores. Endospores can be used in stable, dry formulations. The advantage of using endospores is their ability to survive harsh conditions such as droughts and high temperatures, which give a long shelf life to the biological control agent. Bacillus isolates were recovered from the rhizosphere of 12 different crops, and were subsequently screened in vitro for their antimicrobial activity. Of 130 isolates, 87 exhibited antimicrobial activity against the test organisms: Rhizoctonia solani, Pythium sp., Phytophthora cinnamoni, Fusarium sp., and single representatives of Gram negative and Gram positive bacteria, namely, Erwinia carotovora and Staphylococcus aureus respectively. The Bacillus isolates B77, B81 and B69 inhibited all the test organisms investigated, which suggests that they produced broad spectrum antimicrobial compounds or more than one antimicrobial compound. Of the isolates that showed antimicrobial activity, 78 of them did not inhibit Trichoderma harzianum K D, which is a registered biological control agent; indicating their potential for combined application. Selected Bacillus isolates were tested for the biological control of R. solani under greenhouse conditions in wheat, cabbage, tomato, maize, and cucumber seedlings. Bacillus isolates were applied as seed treatments, and the inoculated seeds were planted in R. solani infested speedling trays. Shoot dry weight measurement of seedlings indicated that 12 out of 19 Bacillus isolates showed significantly different shoot dry weight in wheat whereas all the isolates tested in tomato and cucumber gave significantly different shoot dry weight. No significantly different shoot dry weight was obtained for maize or cabbage. Seed emergence findings indicated that none of the Bacillus isolates gave significantly different emergence percentage on wheat, cabbage, tomato, and maize but all of them showed significantly different emergence percentage on cucumber. The results indicate that both the pathogen and the biological control agents exhibited varying levels of specificity on each crop tested. The biological control potential of the best Bacillus isolates was tested on bean and maize crops in the field. Green bean and maize seeds were coated with the selected Bacillus isolates and then sown under field conditions. For each isolate, four replicate treatment plots were established, with and without a R. solani inoculum. Percentage emergence, plant survival levels to harvesting and yield of maize cobs and green beans pods were measured. For all parameters measured the positive and negative controls were not significantly different thereby rendering the results for the entire field study inconclusive. However, Bacillus isolates B77, BII, R5 and R7 improved green bean pod yield and Bacillus Isolate B8I increased maize yield, indicating their potentials as plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR).