Biological control of plant diseases using fungal biocontrol agents

Last changed: 05 February 2024
A hand holding a wheat leaf with black dots in it, photo.

Fungi are important in biological control. Our research includes application of specific fungi for biological control as well as studies concerning naturally occurring beneficial fungi, and how both possibilities can be used in an optimal way.

Natural antagonists to pathogenic fungi

Certain fungi live as parasites on other fungi, and can be referred to as hyperparasites. We can use these hyperparasites to control plant pathogenic fungi causing diseases on our crop plants. Examples on hyperparasites used commercially today are different species from the fungal genera Trichoderma and Clonostachys. Several products are available on the market and research is done with the aim to develop more products and to make full use of their potential.

A key factor for succeeding with our ambition to improve and optimize the use of hyperparasites is a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that results in efficient biological control. We study mechanisms employed by Trichoderma and Clonostachys species to interact with and antagonize plant pathogenic fungi and to improve plant growth.

Population genomics of biocontrol fungi

Results from this work shows that the ability to control plant pathogenic fungi varies considerably between individuals of the same hyperparasite species. This means that it matters which individuals that are used for biological control of different plant diseases. New techniques for large-scale analyses of complete genomes of fungi have revolutionized our understanding of the genetics behind complex traits such as biological control.

This work have the potential to result in genetic markers that can facilitate identification and selection of highly efficient individuals for biocontrol, for formulation and storage, and for combinations with other biological, chemical or physical control measures. In the long-term, breeding programs for biological control organisms are plausible.

Preventing development of resistant plant pathogenic fungi

The extensive use of chemical fungicides can result in development of fungicide resistance in fungal plant pathogen populations. Our research investigates the possibility to alternate between chemical and biological control measures during the growing season, in order to prevent development of fungicide resistance.

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 Portrait photography of a man.Magnus Karlsson

Professor in Agricultural Plant Pathology
Magnus Karlsson's CV page

Department of Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology, SLU, 018 -67 18 37