Using Natural Fumigants to Extend Strawberry Shelf-Life and Prevent Gray Mold

Jenn Hoskins
30th May, 2024

Using Natural Fumigants to Extend Strawberry Shelf-Life and Prevent Gray Mold

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at Qingdao Agricultural University found that VOCs from Trichoderma isolates can significantly reduce gray mold in strawberries
  • Trichoderma asperellum T7 showed the highest efficacy, inhibiting up to 100% of gray mold on leaves and extending strawberry shelf life by three days
  • The VOCs from T7 damage the pathogen's plasma membrane, preventing its growth and spore germination
Gray mold, caused by the fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea, is a significant problem for various crops, including strawberries, leading to considerable economic losses. Traditional methods of controlling this disease often involve synthetic fungicides, which can have adverse environmental and health impacts. Therefore, there is a pressing need for alternative, natural strategies to manage gray mold. Recent research conducted by Qingdao Agricultural University has explored the use of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by Trichoderma isolates to combat this pathogen[1]. In this study, nine different Trichoderma isolates were screened for their VOC production and their ability to inhibit the growth of B. cinerea. The isolates included Trichoderma atroviride (T1 and T3), Trichoderma harzianum (T2, T4, and T5), and Trichoderma asperellum (T6, T7, T8, and T9). The results showed that these VOCs significantly reduced the mycelial growth (by 13.9-63.0%) and conidial germination (by 17.6-96.3%) of B. cinerea. Among them, T. asperellum T7 exhibited the highest inhibition rates, achieving 76.9% and 100% biocontrol efficacy against gray mold on strawberry fruits and detached leaves, respectively. Additionally, T7 VOCs prolonged the shelf life of strawberries by three days in the presence of B. cinerea and completely protected the leaves from infection. The mechanism behind this biocontrol efficacy was further explored. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis identified 23 potential VOCs produced by T7, with the majority being alkenes, alcohols, and esters. Notably, compounds such as phenylethyl alcohol (PEA) and 6-pentyl-α-pyrone (6PP), which have been previously reported as antifungal substances produced by Trichoderma spp., were detected. These VOCs were found to damage the plasma membrane of B. cinerea, leading to cytoplasm leakage, thereby inhibiting mycelial growth and conidial germination. The findings from Qingdao Agricultural University build on earlier research that has demonstrated the potential of Trichoderma spp. in controlling B. cinerea. For instance, a study showed that VOCs from Trichoderma atroviride IC-11 almost completely inhibited B. cinerea growth in vitro and significantly reduced gray mold incidence in blueberries[2]. The primary compound responsible for this antifungal activity was 6PP, which was also identified in the current study's T7 VOCs. This consistency across studies highlights the robust antifungal properties of 6PP and its potential as a biocontrol agent. Moreover, the study aligns with broader research on the genetic and biochemical interactions between B. cinerea and its hosts. Previous work has shown that the pathogen's ability to infect a wide range of hosts is due to its genetic diversity and adaptability[3]. The identification of multiple VOCs in T7 that can inhibit B. cinerea suggests that a combination of these compounds could be effective in disrupting the pathogen's infection mechanisms, providing a multifaceted approach to disease control. In addition to the VOCs from Trichoderma spp., other biological control agents have also shown promise. For example, a novel Pseudomonas strain, QBA5, was found to significantly inhibit the conidia germination and mycelial growth of B. cinerea on tomatoes[4]. This strain damaged the conidia plasma membrane of the pathogen, similar to the mode of action observed with T7 VOCs. These findings collectively underscore the potential of using biological control agents as sustainable alternatives to synthetic fungicides. In summary, the research by Qingdao Agricultural University demonstrates the efficacy of VOCs produced by Trichoderma asperellum T7 in controlling gray mold on strawberries. By damaging the pathogen's plasma membrane, these VOCs inhibit its growth and prolong the shelf life of the fruit. This study, along with previous research, supports the use of natural biocontrol agents as a viable strategy for managing gray mold and reducing reliance on synthetic fungicides.

FruitsBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) Biocontrol of strawberry Botrytis gray mold and prolong the fruit shelf-life by fumigant Trichoderma spp.

Published 29th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Mycofumigation of postharvest blueberries with volatile compounds from Trichoderma atroviride IC-11 is a promising tool to control rots caused by Botrytis cinerea.

3) Quantitative interactions: the disease outcome of Botrytis cinerea across the plant kingdom.

4) Inhibitory effect and possible mechanism of a Pseudomonas strain QBA5 against gray mold on tomato leaves and fruits caused by Botrytis cinerea.

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