Boosting Tomato Health: Fighting Wilt Disease with Beneficial Fungi

Jenn Hoskins
6th July, 2024

Boosting Tomato Health: Fighting Wilt Disease with Beneficial Fungi

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) explored using endophytic fungi to combat fusarium wilt disease (FWD) in tomatoes
  • Endophytic fungi were found to be more effective than entomopathogenic fungi in inhibiting the growth of the FWD-causing pathogen
  • Tomato plants treated with specific endophytic fungi showed reduced disease severity and improved growth and yield
  • These fungi also boosted the plants' natural defense mechanisms, making them more resilient to future pathogen attacks
Tomato cultivation is a significant agricultural activity worldwide, but it faces severe challenges from soilborne pathogens, particularly Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici (FOL), which causes fusarium wilt disease (FWD). This disease significantly affects tomato yield and quality, posing a threat to food security. Traditional methods of managing these pathogens include the use of resistant cultivars, fungicides, and biological control agents. The latter has gained attention due to its sustainability and public acceptance[2]. Recent research from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) has explored the potential of endophytic fungi as biocontrol agents against FWD[1]. The study evaluated nine fungal isolates for their effectiveness against FOL using in vitro assays. These assays demonstrated that endophytic fungi were more effective in inhibiting FOL mycelial growth compared to entomopathogenic fungi (EPF). Specifically, Trichoderma asperellum M2RT4, Hypocrea lixii F3ST1, Trichoderma harzianum KF2R41, and Trichoderma atroviride ICIPE 710 showed the highest suppression rates, ranging from 68.84% to 99.61%. In contrast, EPF exhibited lower inhibition rates, between 27.05% and 40.63%. To further assess the efficacy of these endophytes, the study conducted in planta experiments. Tomato plants colonized by T. asperellum M2RT4, H. lixii F3ST1, and T. harzianum KF2R41 showed a significant reduction in FWD incidence and severity compared to non-inoculated plants. Additionally, these endophytes promoted plant growth and yield, indicating their dual role in disease suppression and growth enhancement. This aligns with previous findings that endophytic fungi can enhance plant growth and defense mechanisms against pests and pathogens, reducing the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers[3]. The study also investigated the systemic defense responses of endophytically-colonized tomato plants upon exposure to FOL. Using qPCR, researchers found higher expression of defense-related genes in T. asperellum M2RT4-colonized plants compared to un-inoculated ones. This suggests that these endophytes can prime the plant's defense system, making it more resilient to pathogen attacks. Similar defense mechanisms were observed in previous studies where Trichoderma species modulated the defense transcriptome of tomato plants, enhancing the accumulation of defense-related transcripts and antioxidative enzyme activities[4]. Overall, the research highlights the potential of endophytic fungi, particularly T. asperellum M2RT4 and H. lixii F3ST1, as effective biocontrol agents against FWD. These findings provide a sustainable solution to mitigate tomato yield losses associated with fusarium wilt, supporting the broader adoption of biological control methods in integrated pest management (IPM) strategies. The study paves the way for further exploration of endophytic fungi in managing other soilborne diseases, contributing to more resilient and sustainable agricultural practices.

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References

Main Study

1) Biostimulant and antagonistic potential of endophytic fungi against fusarium wilt pathogen of tomato Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici.

Published 4th July, 2024

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-024-66101-1


Related Studies

2) Major Soilborne Pathogens of Field Processing Tomatoes and Management Strategies.

https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms11020263


3) Selection of Endophytic Beauveria bassiana as a Dual Biocontrol Agent of Tomato Pathogens and Pests.

https://doi.org/10.3390/pathogens10101242


4) Trichoderma erinaceum Bio-Priming Modulates the WRKYs Defense Programming in Tomato Against the Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici (Fol) Challenged Condition.

https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2019.00911



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