Biological Control of Plant Diseases

Last changed: 19 June 2019
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It is very intriguing that biological control with beneficial microorganisms (BCAs) can be used to fight serious plant diseases. Biological control will play an important role in the future as many pesticides are being faced out and organic and IPM production is encouraged in Europe aiming at improving sustainable plant production. Biocontrol also play an important role in forestry.

We have identified a range of plant diseases for which it is likely to develop effective BCAs. A few very effective strains have been selected – both bacterial and fungal BCAs – which now are undergoing detailed studies.

Our present activities embrace applied research dealing with production, formulation and application as well as efficacy testing under field conditions and, basic research focusing on biocontrol mechanisms studying molecular interactions between the BCAs and their prey.

We are also working together with partners in the forest- and agro-industry to bring these BCAs further for commercial exploitation.

The biological control research group

Read more about ongoing projects below the slide show.

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Mudassir Iqbal takes samples in a field trial where half of the seed is treated with a fungus to protect the plants against a plant pathogenic nematode. Photo: Magnus Karlsson.
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Field trial with the biocontrol fungus Clonostachys rosea at Aarhus University in Denmark. Photo: Lise Nistrup Jørgensen.

Does biological control have a role in integrated control of Septoria leaf blotch?

Wheat is grown in Denmark and Sweden on more than 1,100,000 hectares and is one of the most important crops in the Nordic countries. However, there are major problems with plant diseases that reduce yield and quality. Septoria leaf blotch is caused by the fungus Zymoseptoria tritici and is one of the most serious wheat diseases. So far, control has been based on repeated spray treatments with fungicides. Unfortunately, many populations of Zymoseptoria tritici have develop resistance to fungicides. Thereby, the fungicides lose their effect in the disease control.

In a collaboration between SLU, the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University, we have tested biological control of Septoria leaf blotch in field trials by spraying the crops with the fungus Clonostachys rosea, which is known to effectively combats a number of plant diseases.

A significant level of biological control

Over a number of years, we have achieved a significant level of biological control of the Septoria leaf blotch in the field. In addition, C. rosea shown great tolerance to a number of fungicides. By using C. rosea in combination with fungicides, we investigate whether biological control can have a central role in integrated pest management (IPM) of Septoria leaf blotch. In an ongoing research project, we are investigating if we can:

  1. Use lower doses of fungicides in combination with C. rosea
  2. Replace fungicidal spray with biological control
  3. Avoid building fungicide resistance in pathogen populations through application of biological control in IPM strategies
  4. Get even better biological control by spraying mixtures of C. rosea and antagonistic bacteria

The project is funded by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency in Denmark.

Participants in the project

  • SLU: Dan Funck Jensen, Mukesh Dubey, Margareta Hökeberg, Annika Gustafsson, Magnus Karlsson
  • University of Copenhagen: Birgit Jensen, David B. Collinge, Hans Lyngs Jørgensen
  • Aarhus University: Lise Nistrup Jørgensen, Thies Marten Heick

Contact

Professor Dan Funck Jensen

Department of Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology
dan.jensen@slu.se, 018-672798

Page editor: cajsa.lithell@slu.se