Good nutrient management is essential not only for optimal plant growth, but also for maintaining good plant health and the ability of the plant to withstand biotic and abiotic stressors. Strawberry, a $3.2 billion commodity in California, requires good nutrient, water, and health management throughout its lengthy fruit production cycle. In addition to the primary nutrient inputs, certain supplements can be beneficial to the crop. A study was conducted in fall-planted strawberries from 2017 to 2018 using a plant-based anti-stress agent, humates, and sulfur, and a special formulation of NPK as supplements to the standard fertility program to evaluate their impact on strawberry fruit yields and quality.
Strawberry cultivar Albion was planted during the second week of December 2017 in 38” wide beds with two rows of plants per bed. This study included the following treatments:
1. Grower standard (GS) program included a total of 6.13 gallons of Urea Ammonium Nitrate Solution 32-0-0, 2.59 gallons of Ammonium Polyphosphate Solution, and 6.95 gallons of Potassium Thiosulfate (KTS 0-0-25) to 0.5 acres of the strawberry field. These fertilizers were applied between 5 January and 18 May 2018 approximately at weekly intervals through the drip irrigation system. Additionally, 1 quart of Nature's Source Organic Plant Food 3-1-1 was applied on 5 and 22 January 2018 and again on 5 February 2018.
2. GS + Bluestim at 3.6 lb/ac in 53 gallons applied as a foliar spray with 0.125% Dyne-Amic once every three weeks for a total of six times. Bluestim is an osmoregulator containing >96% of glycine betaine that is expected to protect plants from abiotic stressors.
3. GS + SKMicrosource Ultrafine powder at 1.4 oz in 4 gallons applied as a foliar spray once a month for a total of three times along with SKMicrosource prill applied at 500 lb/ac at the base of the plant once. Both products contain elemental sulfur, sulfite, and sulfate along with potassium, micronutrients, and rare earth minerals. Additionally, the prill form also has humates. These products are expected to improve plants' natural defenses against biotic stressors like pests and diseases.
4. GS + ISO NPK 3-1-3 at 8 fl oz/ac in 100 gallons once every two weeks for a total of four times. ISO NPK 3-1-3 contains isoprenoid amino complex extracted from a desert shrub guayule (Pathenium argentatum), which is expected to improve nutrient uptake and protect plants from abiotic stressors.
The first application of supplements for treatments 2-4 started on 1 March 2018. Each treatment had a 30' long plot marked on a bed replicated four times in a randomized complete block design. The fruit was harvested one to two times per week between 3 April and 14 June 2018 and the weight of marketable and unmarketable berries was determined for each plot. Using a penetrometer, fruit firmness was measured from four fruits from each plot on 3, 16, and 23 April and 14 May 2018. Sugar content was also measured from two fruits from each plot on those four sampling dates. Postharvest health was measured from the fruit harvested on 16 and 23 April and 21 and 31 May 2018. Fruit was kept in perforated plastic containers (clamshells) at room temperature and the growth of gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) and Rhizopus fruit rot (Rhizopus spp.) was rated 3 and 5 days after harvest on a scale of 0 to 4 (where 0=no disease, 1=1-25% fruit with fungal infection, 2=26-50% infection, 3=51-75%, and 4=76-100%). Data were analyzed using the analysis of variance in Statistix software.
There were no statistically significant (P > 0.05) differences among the treatments in any of the measured parameters. However, the marketable fruit yield was nearly 11% higher in the treatment that received SKMicrosource supplements. While the average sugar content was 9.5 oBx in the grower standard, it varied between 9.7 and 9.8 in other treatments. Similarly, the average disease rating during the postharvest fruit evaluation was 1.00 for the standard at 3 days after harvest, while it varied between 0.25 and 0.50 for the other treatments. Average disease rating at 5 days after harvest was between 2.25 and 2.50 for all treatments.
Table 1. Total marketable and unmarketable fruit yield per plot during the study period
Table 2. Fruit firmness and sugar content on four observation dates and their averages
Table 3. Postharvest fruit disease rating 3 and 5 days after four harvest dates
The crop was generally healthy during the study period and there were no signs of any abiotic stresses such as salinity, water stress, and extreme temperature fluctuations, or biotic stresses such as pests or diseases except for uniform weed growth in the furrows and some areas of the beds. Since these supplements are expected to help the plants under stressful conditions, significant differences could not be found, probably due to the lack of unfavorable growth conditions. It also appears from the manufacturer's studies that ISO NPK 3-1-3 performs better at 4 fl oz/acre - half the rate recommended for this study. Additional studies can help further evaluate the potential of these supplements both under normal and stressed conditions and at different application rates and frequencies.
Thanks to the technical assistance of Dr. Jenita Thinakaran in carrying out the study, the field staff at the Shafter Research Station for the crop maintenance, the financial support of Biobest and Heart of Nature, and to Beem Biologics for providing the test material.
Botrytis fruit rot or gray mold, caused by Botrytis cinerea, is common fruit disease in California strawberries (Koike et al. 2018). Botrytis cinerea has a wide host range infecting several commercially important crops including blueberry (Saito et al. 2016), grapes (Saito et al., 2019), and tomato (Breeze, 2019). Fungal infection can cause flower or fruit rot. Fruit can be infected directly or through a latent infection in the flowers. Moist and cool conditions favor fungal infections and increased sugar content in the ripening fruit can also contribute to the disease development. Initial symptoms of infection appear as brown lesions and a thick mat of gray conidia is characteristic symptom in the later stages of infection. As chemical fungicides are primarily used for gray mold control, fungicide resistance is a common problem around the world (Panebianco et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2016; Stockwell et al., 2018; Weber and Hahn, 2019). In strawberry, cultural control options such as removing diseased plant material or using cultivars with traits that can reduce gray mold infections may not be practical when the disease is widespread in the field or cultivar choice is made based on other factors. Non-chemical control options are necessary to help reduce the risk of chemical fungicide resistance, prolong the life of available chemical fungicides, achieve desired disease control, and to maintain environmental health. Although there are several botanical and microbial fungicides available for gray mold control, limited information is available on their efficacy in California strawberries. A study was conducted in the spring of 2019 to evaluate the efficacy of several chemical, botanical, and microbial fungicides in certain combinations and rotations to help identify effective options for an integrated disease management strategy.
Strawberry cultivar San Andreas was planted late November, 2018 and the study was conducted in April and May, 2019. Each treatment had a 20' long strawberry plot with two rows of plants replicated in a randomized complete block design. Plots were maintained without any fungicidal applications until the study was initiated. Table 1 contains the list of treatments, application rates and dates of application, and Table 2 contains the type of fungicide used and their mode of action. Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae s.l. are California isolates of entomopathogenic fungi, isolated from an insect and a soil sample, respectively. These fungi are pathogenic to a variety of arthropods and some strains are formulated as biopesticides for arthropod control. However, earlier studies in California demonstrated that these fungi are also known to antagonize plant pathogens such as Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. vasinfectum Race 4 (Dara et al., 2016) and Macrophomina phaseolina (Dara et al., 2018) and reduce the disease severity. To further evaluate their efficacy against B. cinerea, these two fungi were also included in this study alternating with two chemical fungicides.
Treatments were applied with a CO2-pressurized backpack sprayer using 66.5 gpa spray volume. Five days before the first spray application and 3 days after each application, all ripe fruit were harvested from each plot and incubated at the room temperature in vented plastic containers. The level of gray mold on fruit from each plot was rated using a 0 to 4 scale (where 0=no disease, 1=1-25% fruit with fungal infection, 2=26-50% infection, 3=51-75%, and 4=76-100%) 3 and 5 days after each harvest (DAH). Due to the rains, fruit could not be harvested after the 3rd spray application for disease rating, but was harvested and discarded after the rains to avoid cross infection for the following week's harvest. Data were analyzed using analysis of variance using Statistix software and significant means were separated using Least Significant Difference separation test.
Gray mold occurred at low to moderate levels during the study period. Along with B. cinerea, there were a few instances of minor fungal infections from Rhizopus spp. (Rhizopus fruit rot) and Mucor spp. (Mucor fruit rot). Pre-treatment disease ratings were statistically not significant (P = 0.6197 and 0.5741) 3 and 5 DAH. While the chemical standard treatment with the rotation of Captan, Merivon, Switch, and Pristine (treatment 2) appeared to result in the lowest disease rating throughout the observation period, treatments 3 and 5 after the 1st spray application, treatments 5 and 11 along with 3, 4 and 6 after the 2nd spray application, and treatments 3 and 5 along with 11 after the 4th spray application also had similar disease control at 3 DAH. When disease at 5 DAH was compared, the lowest rating was seen in treatment 2 after the 1st and 2nd spray applications, and treatments 2, 3, and 11 after the 4th application. Several other treatments also provided statistically similar control during these days.
When the average disease rating for the three post-treatment observation events was considered, treatment 2, 3, 5, and 11 had the lowest disease at both 3 and 5 DAH. Treatments 4 and 12 at 3 DAH also had a statistically similar level of disease control to treatment 2.
In general, most of the treatments provided moderate to high control compared to the disease in untreated control when the post-treatment averages were considered. Only treatment 7 and 13 had lower control at 3 DAH.
This study compared a variety of registered and developmental products along with two entomopathogenic fungi in managing B. cinerea. Considering the fungicide resistance problem in B. cinerea in multiple crops, having multiple non-chemical control options is very important to achieve desirable control with integrated disease management strategies. Since the active ingredients in the botanical and bacterial fungicides used in this study are not public, discuss will be limited on their modes of action and efficacy at this point. Similarly, the active ingredient of WXF-17001 is also not known, however, an earlier study by Calvo-Garrido et al. (2014) demonstrated that a fatty acid-based natural product reduced B. cinerea conidial germination by 54% and disease severity in grapes by 96% compared to untreated control. The product used by Calvo-Garrido et al. (2014) is thought to be fungistatic and reduce the postharvest respiratory activity and ethylene production in fruits.
While chemical fungicides have a specific mode of action, biological and other products act in multiple manners either directly antagonizing the plant pathogen or by triggering the plant defenses. For example, amending the potting medium with biochar resulted in induced systemic resistance in tomato and reduced B. cinerea severity by 50% (Mehari et al., 2015). Luna et al. (2016) also showed that application of β-aminobutyric acid and jasmonic acid promoted seed germination and long-term resistance to B. cinerea in tomato. Burkholderia phytofirmans, beneficial endophytic bacterium, offered protection against B. cinerea in grapes by mobilizing carbon resources (callose deposition), triggering plant immune system (hydrogen peroxide production and priming of defense genese), and through antifungal activity (Miotto-Vilanova et al. 2016). Similarly, entomopathogenic fungi such as B. bassiana are also known to induce systemic resistance against plant pathogens (Griffin et al. 2006). Compared to other options evaluated in the study, entomopathogenic fungi have an advantage of controlling both arthropod pests and diseases, while also having plant growth promoting effect (Dara et al. 2017).
Rotating fungicides with different mode of actions reduces the risk of resistance development and using some combinations will also maintain control efficacy. This study provided the efficacy of multiple control options and their combinations and rotations for B. cinerea. This is also the first study demonstrating the efficacy of entomopathogenic fungi against B. cinerea in strawberry.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Sipcam Agro and Westbridge for funding the study, technical assistance of Hamza Khairi for data collection, and the field staff at the Shafter Research Station for the crop maintenance.
Breeze, E. 2019. 97 Shades of gray: genetic interactions of the gray mold, Botrytis cinerea, with wild and domesticated tomato. The Plant Cell 31: 280-281. https://doi.org/10.1105/tpc.19.00030
Calvo-Garrido, C., A.A.G. Elmer, F. J. Parry, I. Viñas, J. Usall, R. Torres, R.H. Agnew, and N. Teixidó. 2014. Mode of action of a fatty acid-based natural product to control Botrytis cinerea in grapes. J. Appl. Microbiol. 116: 967-979. https://doi.org/10.1111/jam.12430
Dara, S. K., S. S. Dara, S.S.R. Dara, and T. Anderson. 2016. First report of three entomopathogenic fungi offering protection against the plant pathogen, Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. vasinfectum. UC ANR eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=22199
Dara, S. K., S.S.R. Dara, and S. S. Dara. 2017. Impact of entomopathogenic fungi on the growth, development, and health of cabbage growing under water stress. Amer. J. Plant Sci. 8: 1224-1233. https://doi.org/10.4236/ajps.2017.86081
Dara, S.S.R., S. S. Dara, and S. K. Dara. 2018. Preliminary report on the potential of Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae s.l. in antagonizing the charcoal rot causing fungus Macrophomina phaseolina in strawberry. UC ANR eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=28274
Griffin, M. R., B. H. Ownley, W. E. Klingeman, and R. M. Pereira. 2006. Evidence of induced systemic resistance with Beauveria bassiana against Xanthomonas in cotton. Phytopathol. 96.
Koike, S. T., G. T. Browne, T. R. Gordon, and M. P. Bolda. 2018. UC IPM pest management guidelines: strawberry (diseases). UC ANR Publication 3468. https://www2.ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/strawberry/Botrytis-Fruit-Rot/
Liu, S., Z. Che, and G. Chen. 2016. Multiple-fungicide resistance to carbendazim, diethofencardb, procymidone, and pyrimethanil in field isolates of Botrytis cinerea from tomato in Henan Province, China. Crop Protection 84: 56-61.
Luna, E., E. Beardon, S. Ravnskov, J. Scholes, and J. Ton. 2016. Optimizing chemically induced resistance in tomato against Botrytis cinerea. Plant Dis. 100: 704-710. https://doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-03-15-0347-RE
Mehari, Z. H., Y. Elad, D. Rav-David, E. R. Graber, and Y. M. Harel. 2015. Induced systemic resistance in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) against Botrytis cinerea by biochar amendment involves jasmonic acid signaling. Plant and Soil 395: 31-44.
Miotto-Vilanova, L., C. Jacquard, B. Courteaux, L. Wortham, J. Michel, C. Clément, E. A. Barka, and L. Sanchez. 2016. Burkholderia phytofirmans PsJN confers grapevine resistance against Botrytis cinerea via a direct antimicrobial effect combined with a better resource mobilization. Front. Plant Sci. 7: 1236. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2016.01236
Panebianco, A., I. Castello, G. Cirvilleri, G. Perrone, F. Epifani, M. Ferrarra, G. Polizzi, D. R. Walters, and A. Vitale. 2015. Detection of Botrytis cinerea field isolates with multiple fungicide resistance from table grape in Sicily. Crop Protection 77: 65-73.
Saito, S., T. J. Michailides, and C. L. Xiao. 2016. Fungicide resistance profiling in Botrytis cinerea populations from blueberry in California and Washington and their impact on control of gray mold. Plant Dis. 100: 2087-2093. https://doi.org/10.1094/PDIS-02-16-0229-RE
Saito, S., T. J. Michailides, and C. L. Xiao. 2019. Fungicide-resistant phenotypes in Botrytis cinerea populations and their impact on control of gray mold on stored table grapes in California. European J. Plant Pathol. 154: 203-213.
Stockwell, V. O., B. T> Shaffer, L. A. Jones, and J. W. Pscheidt. 2018. Fungicide resistance profiles of Botrytis cinerea isolated from berry crops in Oregon. Abstract for International Congress of Plant Pathology: Plant Health in A Global Economy; 2018 July 29-Aug 3; Boston, MA.
Weber, R.W.S. and M. Hahn. 2019. Grey mould disease of strawberry in northern Germany: causal agents, fungicide resistance and management strategies. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 103: 1589-1597.
There has been a growing interest in the recent years in exploring the potential of biostimulants in crop production. Biostimulants are mineral, botanical, or microbial materials that stimulate natural processes in plants, help them tolerate biotic and abiotic stressors, and improve crop growth and health. Several recent studies demonstrated the potential of the biostimulant or soil amendments in improving crop yields and health. For example, in a 2017 field study, silicon, microbial, botanical and nutrient materials improved processing tomato yields by 27 to 32% compared to the standard fertility program (Dara and Lewis, 2018). In a 2017-2018 strawberry field study, some biostimulant and soil amendment products resulted in a 13-16% increase in marketable fruit yield compared to the grower standard (Dara and Peck, 2018). He et al. (2019) evaluated three species of Bacillus and Pseudomonas putida alone and in different combinations in tomatoes grown in laboratory and greenhouse. The combination of Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, B. pumilus, and P. putida increased the plant biomass and the root/shoot ratio. Significant increase in fruit yield, between 18 and 39%, was also achieved from individual or co-inoculations of these bacteria. A field study was conducted in processing tomato to evaluate the impact of nutrient products containing beneficial microbes and botanical extracts on tomato yields and fruit quality.
The study was conducted from late spring to fall of 2018 to evaluate three treatment programs compared to the grower standard. Tomato cultivar Quali T27 was seeded on 25 April and transplanted on 19 June using a mechanical transplanter. Due to high temperatures at the time of planting, some transplants died and they were re-planted on 28 June. Herbicide Matrix was applied on 5 July and Poast was applied on 13 July followed by hand weeding on 27 July. Crop was irrigated, fertigated, and treatements were applied through a drip system. Overhead sprinkler irrigation was additionally used immediately after transplanting. The following treatments were included in the study:
1. Grower standard: 10-34-0 Ammonium Polyphosphate Solution was applied at 10 gal/ac at the time of transplanting followed by the application of UAN-32 Urea Ammonium Nitrate Solution 32-0-0 at the rate of 15 units of N at 3, 6, and 13 weeks after planting and 25 units of N at 7 weeks after planting.
2. Grower standard + BiOWiSH Crop 16-40-0: BiOWiSH Crop 16-40-0 contains 16% nitrogen and 40% phosphate along with B. amyloliquefaciens, B. licheniformis, B. pumilus, and B. subtilis at 1X108 cfu/gram. Crop 16-40-0 was applied at 1 lb/ac at the time of planting followed by the application 0.5 lb/ac at 3, 6, and 9 weeks after planting.
3. Grower standard 85% + BiOWiSH Crop 16-40-0: Crop 16-40-0 was applied at the same rate and frequency as in treatment 2, but the grower standard was reduced to 85%.
4. RootRx: RootRx contains 5% soluble potash and proprietary botanical extracts and is supposed to stimulate a broad range of antioxidant compounds in the plant. It was applied at 0.25 gal/ac at the time of planting followed by the application of 0.5 gal/ac at 3, about 7, and 13 weeks after planting.
Each treatment contained 30' long bed with a single row of tomato plants and replicated five times in a randomized complete block design. Along with the fruit yield, the sugar content of the fruit and leaves [using a refractometer from three fruits (two measurements from each) and four leaves per plot], chlorophyll content (using a digital chlorophyll meter from four leaves per plot), and frost damage levels (using a visual rating on a 0 to 5 scale where 0 = no frost damage and 5 = extreme frost damage with a complete plant death) were also monitored. Due to an unknown reason, some plants in the fifth replication were stunted halfway through the study. Data from the fifth replication were excluded from the analysis. Data were subjected to the analysis of variance using Statistix software and significant means were separated using the Tukey's HSD test.
Fruit yield: Marketable and unmarketable fruit yield was monitored from 27 August to 13 November. Seasonal total for marketable fruit was significantly (P = 0.04) different among the treatments where RootRx resulted in a 26.5% increase over the grower standard while Crop 16-4-0 with the full rate of the grower standard had an 8%, and with 85% of the grower standard had a 13.2% increase. It appeared that a similar improved yield response was also seen when Crop 16-40-0 was used at a reduced rate of the grower standard in other studies conducted by the manufacturer.
Sugar content: Sugar content of the fruit and leaves was measured once after the last harvest and there were no significant (P > 0.05) difference among the treatments.
Chlorophyll content: Chlorophyll content was measured once after the last harvest and there was no significant (P > 0.05) difference among the treatments.
Frost damage: Study was concluded after frosty conditions in November 2018 damaged the crop. Although there were no statistically significant (P > 0.05) differences, plants treated with RootRx had the lowest rating of 2.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Jenita Thinakaran and the field staff at the Shafter Research Station for their technical assistance, Plantel Nurseries for providing transplants, and BiOWiSH Technologies and Redox Chemicals for their financial support.
Dara, S. K. and D. Peck. 2018. Microbial and bioactive soil amendments for improving strawberry crop growth, health, and fruit yields: a 2017-2018 study. UCANR eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals (https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=27891)
Dara, S. K. and E. Lewis. 2018. Impact of nutrient and biostimulant materials on tomato crop health and yield. UCANR eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals (https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=26054)
He. Y., H. A. Pantigoso, Z. Wu, and J. M. Vivanco. 2019. Co-inoculation of Bacillus sp. and Pseudomonas putida at different development stages acts as a biostimulant to promote growth, yield and nutrient uptake of tomato. J. Appl. Microbiol. https://doi.org/10.1111/jam.14273
- Author: Surendra K. Dara
- Author: Suchitra S. Dara
- Author: Stefan Jaronski, USDA-ARS
The western Grapeleaf skeletonizer (WGLS), Harrisina metallica Stretch (Lepidoptera: Zygaenidae), previously known to cause severe defoliation to vineyards and backyard grapevines appears to be re-emerging in California. Since its first detection in San Diego in 1941, WGLS spread through commercial vineyards and backyard grapes becoming a serious problem. Although two biological control agents from Arizona and Mexico were introduced in California for WGLS control, a naturally occurring granulovirus (Harrisina brillians granulovirus) nearly eradicated WGLS populations and kept them under control. WGLS has not been a problem especially in conventional vineyards. However, based on some unpublished observations, WGLS populations are emerging in organic vineyards and backyard grapevines.
WGLS lives up to its name by skeletonizing and defoliating grape leaves. Organic vineyards are especially at risk and uncontrolled populations can destroy vineyards resulting in significant losses. Metallic bluish or greenish black moths lay barrel shaped yellowish eggs on the lower side of the leaves. There are five larval instars. Early instars are cream colored and develop black and purple bands in later stages. Pupation occurs in a whitish cocoon. Upon hatching, larvae start feeding side by side in a row on the lower side of leaf. Damage by younger larvae appears as whitish leaf area containing veins and the upper cuticle, which eventually turn brown. Older larvae skeletonize leaves leaving larger veins. Larvae may also feed on fruit leading to bunch rot. Severe damage can cause defoliation and sunburn of the exposed fruit.
A study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy of six non-chemical control options that included formulations of spinosad, two subspecies of Bacillus thuringiensis, and a botanical insecticide/growth regulator along with two unformulated entomopathogenic fungal isolates native to California. Larvae were collected from an infested, untreated backyard grapevine and maintained in one gallon plastic tubs with screened lids on infested leaves. Fresh, untreated grape leaves from uninfested vines were provided daily for 3 days before starting the assay. For each treatment, five 4-5 instar larvae were placed on a grape leaf disc (rinsed in water and dried) in a Petri plate (100 mm dia) with a moist filter paper. Larvae were treated by spraying 1 ml of the treatment solution (containing Dyne-Amic as a surfactant at 0.125% vol/vol). Application rates for commercial formulations were determined based on label recommendations for 100 gallons of spray volume. Entomopathogenic fungal concentrations were also determined based on the label rates for similar commercial products. Treatments were replicated four times and the assay was conducted twice. Larval mortality was observed daily and dead larvae were removed and incubated separately. Fresh leaf discs were provided as needed to the remaining larvae. Actual and corrected (for control mortality) total mortality were calculated.Data were arcsine-transformed for statistical analysis and significant means were separated using Tukey's HSD test.
Both cumulative daily mortality and total mortality significantly (P < 0.0001) differed among treatments. Entrust and M. anisopliae resulted in the highest mortality followed by B. bassiana, Neemix, and Agree. In general, feeding reduced or ceased in all larvae following treatment and could have contributed to a lower mortality in B. thuringiensis treatments. Entomopathogenic fungi emerged from all the cadavers from respective treatments. Microbial and botanical options provided good control of WGLS. These non-chemical alternatives can be effectively used in both organic and conventional vineyards. California isolates of B. bassiana and M. anisopliae demonstrated good control efficacy and the potential to be developed as microbial pesticides.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to the technical assistance of Alor Sahoo in carrying out these assays, and Certis and Corteva for providing the pesticide formulations.
Federici, B. A. and V. M. Stern. 1990. Replication and occlusion of a granulosis virus in larval and adult midgut epithlium of the western grapeleaf skeletonizer, Harrisina brillians. J. Invertebr. Pathol. 56: 401-414.
- Author: Sumanth S. R. Dara
- Author: Suchitra S. Dara
- Author: Surendra K. Dara
Charcoal rot, caused by Macrophomina phaseolina, is one of the important fungal diseases of strawberry in California. Macrophomina phaseolina is a soilborne fungus and has a wide host range, including alfalfa, cabbage, corn, pepper, and potato, some of which are cultivated in the strawberry production areas in California. The fungus infects the vascular system of the plant roots, obstructing the nutrient and water supply and ultimately resulting in stunted growth, wilting, and death of the plant. The fungus survives in the soil and infected plant debris as microsclerotia (resting structures made of hyphal bodies) and can persist for up to three years. Microslerotia germinate and penetrate the root system to initiate infection. Plants are more vulnerable to fungal infection when they are experiencing environmental (extreme weather or drought conditions) and physiological (heavy fruit bearing) stress.
Soil fumigation is the primary management option for addressing charcoal rot in strawberry. Crop rotation with broccoli can also reduce the risk of charcoal rot due to glucosinolates and isothiocyanates in broccoli crop residue that have fungicidal properties. Beneficial microorganisms such as Bacillus spp. and Trichoderma spp. are also considered, especially in organic strawberries, to antagonize M. phaseolina and other soilborne pathogens and provide some protection. The role of beneficial microbes in disease management or improving crop growth and health is gaining popularity in the recent years with the commercial availability of biofungicide, biostimulant, and soil amendment products. In a couple of recent strawberry field studies in Santa Maria, some of the beneficial microbial products improved fruit yield or crop health. These treatments can be administered by inoculating the transplants prior to planting, immediately after planting or periodically applying to the plants and or the soil. Adding beneficial microbes can help improve the soil microbiome especially after chemical or bio-fumigation and anaerobic soil disinfestation.
Similar to the benefits of traditionally used bacteria (e.g., Bacillus spp. and Pseudomonas spp.) and fungi (e.g., Glomus spp. and Trichoderma spp.), studies with entomopathogenic fungi such as Beauveria bassiana, Isaria fumosorosea, and Metarhizium spp. also demonstrated their role in improving water and nutrient absorption or antagonizing plant pathogens. The advantage of entomopathogenic fungi is that they are already used for arthropod pest management in multiple crops, including strawberry; now, there are the additional benefits of promoting crop growth and antagonizing plant pathogens. In light of some promising recent studies exploring these roles, a study was conducted using potted strawberry plants to evaluate the efficacy of two California isolates of Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae s.l. and their application strategies against M. phaseolina.
About 6 week old strawberry plants (cultivar Albion) from a strawberry field at the Shafter Research Station were transplanted into 1.6-gallon pots with Miracle-Gro All Purpose Garden Soil (0.09-0.05-0.07 N-P-K) and maintained in an outdoor environment. They were regularly watered, and their health was monitored for about 5 months prior to the commencement of the study. Conidial suspensions of the California isolates of B. bassiana and M. anisopliae s.l. were applied one week before, after, or at the time of applying microsclerotia of M. phaseolina to the potting mix. The following treatments were evaluated in the study:
- Untreated control
- Soil inoculated with M. phaseolina
- Soil inoculated with B. bassiana 1 week prior to M. phaseolina inoculation
- Soil inoculated with M. anisopliae s.l. 1 week prior to M. phaseolina inoculation
- Soil inoculated with B. bassiana at the time of M. phaseolina inoculation
- Soil inoculated with M. anisopliae s.l. at the time of M. phaseolina inoculation
- Soil inoculated with B. bassiana 1 week after to M. phaseolina inoculation
- Soil inoculated with M. anisopliae s.l. 1 week after to M. phaseolina inoculation
Entomopathogenic fungi were applied as 1X1010 viable conidia in 100 ml of 0.01% Dyne-Amic (surfactant) solution distributed around the plant base. To apply M. phaseolina, 5 grams of infested cornmeal-sand inoculum containing 2,500 CFU/gram was added to four 5 cm deep holes around the base of the plant. Each treatment had six pots each planted with a single strawberry plant representing a replication. Treatments were randomly arranged within each replication. The study was repeated once a few days after the initiation of the first experiment.
Plant health was monitored starting from the first week after the M. phaseolina inoculation and continued for seven weeks. Plant health was rated on a scale of 0 to 5 where 0=dead and 5=very healthy and the rest of the ratings in between depending on the extent of wilting. Data from both experiments were combined and analyzed by ANOVA using Statistix software and significant means were separated using LSD test. The influence of entomopathogenic fungal treatments applied at different times as well as the combined effect of different applications within each fungus were compared for seven weeks. Ratings for some plants that were scorched from hot summer temperatures and died abruptly were removed from the analyses.
Untreated control plants maintained good health throughout the observation period varying between the rating of 4.3 and 4.9. In general, plant health declined considerably from the 5th week after M. phaseolina inoculation. Plant health appeared to be slightly better in plants treated with entomopathogenic fungi, but there was no statistically significant difference in any except one instance. Plants treated with M. anisopliae one week prior to the application of M. phaseolina had a rating of 3.0 compared to 1.6 rating of plants inoculated with M. phaseolina alone.
When data from different treatments for each entomopathogenic fungus were compared, both B. bassiana and M. anisopliae s.l. appeared to reduce the wilting, but the plant health rating was not significantly different from the M. phaseolina treatment alone.
This is the first report of the impact of entomopathogenic fungi on M. phaseolina with some promise. Additional studies under more uniform environmental conditions and with more treatment options would shed more light on this approach of using entomopathogenic fungi against M. phaseolina. The current study evaluated single application of the entomopathogenic fungi and we plan to conduct additional studies with multiple applications.
Acknowledgements: We thank Dr. Kelly Ivors (previously at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) for the pathogen inoculum and Dr. Stefan Jaronski, USDA-ARS, Sidney, MT for multiplying the entomopathogenic fungal inocula.
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