- Author: Surendra K. Dara
Biostimulants are beneficial microorganisms or substances that can be used in crop production to improve plants' immune responses and their ability to perform well under biotic and abiotic stresses. Biostimulants induce plant resistance to stress factors through systemic acquired resistance or induced systemic resistance. When plants are exposed to virulent and avirulent pathogens, non-pathogenic microorganisms, and some chemicals, the systemic acquired resistance mechanism is activated through the salicylic acid pathway triggering the production of pathogenesis-related proteins. On the other hand, when plants are exposed to beneficial microbes, the induced systemic resistance mechanism is activated through the jasmonic acid and ethylene pathways. The jasmonic acid pathway also leads to pathogenesis-related protein production in plants. In other words, when plants are exposed to pathogens, non-pathogens, or other compounds, various defense genes are activated through two major immune responses, helping plants fight the real infection or prepare them for potential infection. Beneficial microbes and non-microbial biostimulants are like vaccines that prepare plants for potential health problems.
Earlier studies in tomato (Dara and Lewis, 2018; Dara, 2019a) and strawberry (Dara and Peck, 2018; Dara, 2019b) demonstrated varying levels of benefits to crop health and yield improvements from a variety of botanical, microbial, or mineral biostimulants and other supplements. Some of the evaluated products resulted in significant yield improvement in both tomatoes and strawberries compared to the grower standard practices. There are several biostimulant products in the market with a variety of active ingredients, and some also have major plant nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Depending on the crop, growing conditions, potential risk of pests and diseases, and other factors, growers can use one or more of these products. A study was conducted to evaluate the impact of various biostimulants on the yield, quality, and shelf life of strawberries.
Strawberry cultivar San Andreas was planted late November 2018 and treatments were administered at the time of planting or soon after, depending on the protocol. Each treatment had a 290' long strawberry bed where 10' of the bed at each end was left out as a buffer. Then, six 30' long plots, each representing a replication, were marked within each bed with an 18' buffer between the plots. Since the test products needed to be applied through the drip system, an entire bed was allocated for each treatment, except for the standard program that had one bed on either side of the experimental block, and plots were marked within each bed for data collection. The following treatment regimens were used in the study:
1. Standard Program (SP): Major nutrients were provided in the form of Urea Ammonium Nitrate Solution 32-0-0, Ammonium Polyphosphate Solution, and Potassium Thiosulfate (KTS 0-0-25). Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium were applied before planting in November 2018 at 170, 60, and 130 lb/acre, respectively. From 15 January to 9 May 2019, a total of 26 lb of nitrogen, 13 lb of phosphorus, and 26 lb of potassium were applied through 13 periodic applications.
2. SP + Terramera Program: Formulation labeled as Experimental A (cold-pressed neem 70%) was applied at 1.2% vol/vol immediately after planting. Additional applications were made starting from 2 weeks after planting once every two weeks until the end of February (six times), followed by 13 weekly applications from the beginning of March.
3. SP + Locus Low Rate Program: This program contained Rhizolizer soil amendment (Trichoderma harzianum 1X108 CFU/ml and Bacillus amyloliquefaciens 1X109 CFU/ml) at 3 fl oz/acre, humic acid at 13.5 fl oz/acre, and kelp at 6.8 fl oz/acre. The first application was made within 15 days and at 30 days after planting followed by once in February, March, and April 2019.
4. SP + Locus High Rate Program: This program contained Rhizolizer soil amendment (Trichoderma harzianum 1X108 CFU/ml and Bacillus amyloliquefaciens 1X109 CFU/ml) at 6 fl oz/acre, humic acid at 13.5 fl oz/acre, and kelp at 6.8 fl oz/acre. The first application was made within 15 days and at 30 days after planting followed by once in February, March, and April 2019.
5. SP + BioGro Program: Transplants were treated with Premium Plant BB (Beauveria bassiana 1.1%) by spraying 2 fl oz/acre (1.29 ml in 850 ml of water). About 7 weeks after planting, 30 gpa of Plant-X Rhizo-Pro (botanical extracts), 2 gpa of CHB Premium 21 (humic acid blend), 3 gpa of CHB Premium 6 (3% humic acids), and 5 gpa of NUE Flourish 4-12-0 were applied. Starting from mid-February 2019, 15 gpa of Plant-X Rhizo-Pro, 1 gpa of CHB Premium 21, and 2 gpa of CHB Premium 6 were applied four times every 2 weeks until the end of March. Starting from 5 April 2019, 8 weekly applications of 10 gpa of Plant-X Rhizo-Pro, 1 gpa of CHB Premium 21, 2 gpa of Premium 6, and 4 gpa of NUE Flourish 4-12-0 were made until 26 May 2019.
6. SP + Actagro Program: Structure 7-21-0 at 3 gpa and Liquid Humus 0-0-4 with 22% organic acids at 1 gpa were first applied within 1 week of planting and then three more times every 2 weeks until the end of December 2018. Additional monthly applications were made from the end of January to the end of April 2019.
All the fertilizers and treatment materials were applied through the drip system using the Dosatron (Model D14MZ2) equipment. The following parameters were measured during the experimental period from January to May 2019.
Canopy: The size of the plant canopy was determined on 21 January and again on 17 February 2019 by measuring the spread of the canopy across and along the length of the bed from 16 random plants within each plot, and calculating the area.
Initial flowering and fruiting: When flowering initiated, the number of flowers and developing fruits was counted from 16 random plants within each plot on 1 and 16 February 2019.
Fruit yield: Fruit was harvested weekly from every plant within each plot from 3 March to 26 May 2019 on 11 dates and the number and weight of the marketable and unmarketable fruit was determined. Due to a technical error, some of the yield data from an additional date (29 March) were lost and excluded from the analysis.
Fruit firmness: The firmness of two marketable fruit from each of five random plants per plot was measured using a penetrometer on 5 April, and 16 and 26 May 2019.
Fruit sugar content: The sugar content from one marketable fruit from each of 10 plants per plot was measured using a refractometer on 5 April and 26 May 2019.
Leaf chlorophyll content: On 11 March and 31 May 2019, the chlorophyll content of one mature leaf from each of five random plants per plot was measured using a chlorophyll meter.
Postharvest disease: Marketable fruit harvested on 21 and 28 April, and 5 and 26 May 2019 was kept at the room temperature in perforated plastic containers (clamshells) and the growth of gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) or Rhizopus fruit rot fungus (Rhizopus spp.) was measured on a scale of 0 to 4 (where 0=no fungus, 1=1-25%, 2=26-50%, 3=51-75%, and 4=76-100% fungal growth) 3 and 5 days after each harvest.
Data were analyzed using analysis of variance in Statistix software and significant means were separated using the Least Significant Difference means separation test.
Results and Discussion
Statistically significant differences among treatments were seen for the seasonal total number of unmarketable berries (P = 0.0172), the initial flower and fruit numbers on 1 February (P < 0.0014), the leaf chlorophyll content on 31 May (P = 0.0144), and the disease rating 3 days after the 28 April harvest (P = 0.0065).
Treatments did not differ (P > 0.05) in any other measured parameters of the plant, fruit quality, or yield. However, the total seasonal fruit yield was 13 to 31% higher and the total marketable fruit yield was 10 to 36% higher in various treatment programs compared to the standard program. The seasonal total of unmarketable fruit yield was also 4 to 25% higher in treatment programs than the standard program except that there were nearly 12% fewer unmarketable berries in the Actagro program compared to the standard program.
While treatments did not statistically differ for many of the measured parameters, numerical differences in marketable fruit yield could be helpful for some understanding of the potential of these biostimulants. Additional studies with larger treatment plots would be useful for generating additional data.
Thanks to Dr. Jenita Thinakaran for the assistance at the start of the study, Hamza Khairi for his technical assistance throughout the study, the field staff at the Shafter Research Station for the crop maintenance, NorCal Nursery for the strawberry transplants, and Actagro, BioGro, Locus, and Terramera for their collaboration and financial support
Dara, S. K. 2019a. Improving tomato yield with nutrient materials containing microbial and botanical biostimulants. eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals, 6 June 2019 https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=30448
Dara, S. K. 2019b. Evaluating the efficacy of anti-stress supplements on strawberry yield and quality. eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals, 10 August 2019 https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=31044
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 eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals, 3 August 2018 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. eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals, 9 January 2019 https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=26054
- Author: Surendra K. Dara
Beauveria bassiana is a soilborne entomopathogenic fungus which offers plant protection as a pathogen of arthropod pests (Feng et al., 1994; Dara, 2015). It also appears to have a direct association with plants as an endophyte, colonizing various plant tissues, or through a mycorrizha-like relationship promoting plant health and growth (Bing and Lewis, 1991; Posada and Vega, 2005; Dara, 2013; Dara and Dara, 2015; Lopez and Sword, 2015; Dara et al., 2016;). In a raised bed study conducted in 2013, treating strawberry transplants with B. bassiana resulted in a significant improvement in the plant growth compared to untreated control or treatment with a beneficial microbe-based product (Dara, 2013). To evaluate such an impact in a commercial strawberry field, a study was conducted at Manzanita Berry Farms in Santa Maria in conventional fall-planted strawberries.
Chris Martinez, Manzanita Berry Farms applying B. bassiana to newly planted strawberry crop.
Experimental design included five plots each of the grower standard and periodical soil application of B. bassiana (BotaniGard ES) alternated on consecutive beds. Each plot had 50 strawberry plants. Strawberry variety PS3108 was planted on 27 November, 2013 and B. bassiana treatment was initiated on 2 December, 2013. To prepare the treatment liquid, 0.64 fl oz (18.9 ml) of BotaniGard ES was mixed in 1 gal (3.78 L). About 0.4 fl oz (11.8 ml) of the liquid was applied near the base of each plant (5 cm deep and 2.5 cm away from the plant) in B. bassiana treatment using a handpump sprayer. Application was continued every week until 13 January, 2014 (a total of seven times) followed by six biweekly applications until 7 April, 2014.
To determine the impact of B. bassiana on plant growth, size of the strawberry canopy was measured across and along the length of the bed from every third plant (20 total) within each plot on 21 January, 11 February, and 7 March, 2014. Yield data were collected every 2-3 days from 8 March to 30 June, 2014 following the normal harvest schedule. Data were analyzed using analysis of variance and Tukey's HSD test was used to separate significant means.
About 5 weeks (above) and 14 weeks (below) after transplanting.
Chris Martinez taking canopy measurements.
Canopy size was slightly higher for B. bassiana-treated plants on the first two sampling dates and for the grower standard plants on the last observation date although differences were not statistically significant (P > 0.05). Seasonal total for the marketable berries was slightly higher in the grower standard (101.1 lb or 45.9 kg) than in B. bassiana treatment (44.2 lb or 97.4 kg), but the difference was not statistically significant (P > 0.05). The average weight of marketable berries was 28.8 g from the B. bassiana-treated plots and 28.7 g from the grower standard.
Strawberry canopy (above) and seasonal yield (below) data in B. bassiana-treated and grower standard plots.
In the 2013 raised bed study, roots of the misted tip strawberry transplants were treated 48 hours before planting by applying 1 ml of the Mycotrol-O formulation (2.11X1011 conidia) in 1 ml of water per plant. In the current study, transplants could not be treated before planting and the commercial field application rate used (1.25X109 conidia) was much less than the rate used in the raised bed study. Although multiple applications were made for several weeks during the current study, B. bassiana did not have any impact on plant growth or fruit yields. This was the first commercial field study evaluating the impact of B. bassiana on strawberry plant growth and yield. Plant, soil, and microbe interaction is very complex and is influenced by multiple factors. Additional studies are necessary to understand the potential of B. bassiana and other entomopathogenic fungi in plant production in addition to its role in plant protection.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Dave Peck, Manzanita Berry Farms for collaboration on the study and Chris Martinez for his technical assistance.
Bing, L. A., and L. C. Lewis. 1991. Suppression of Ostrinia nubilalis (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) by endophytic Beauveria bassiana (Balsamo) Vuillemin. Environ. Entomol. 20: 1207-1211.
Dara, S. K. 2013. Entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana promotes strawberry plant growth and health. UCANR eJournal Strawberries and Vegetables, 30 September, 2013.
Dara, S. K. 2016. IPM solutions of insect pests in California strawberries: efficacy of botanical, chemical, mechanical, and microbial options. CAPCA Adviser 19 (2): 40-46.
Dara, S. K. and S. R. Dara. 2015. Entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana endophytically colonizes strawberry plants. UCANR eJournal Strawberries and Vegetables, 17 February, 2015.
Dara, S. K., S.S.R. Dara, and S. S. Dara. 2016. First report of entomopathogenic fungi, Beauveria bassiana, Isaria fumosorosea, and Metarhizium brunneum promoting the growth and health of cabbage plants growing under water stress. UCANR eJournal Strawberries and Vegetables, 19 September, 2016.
Feng, M. G., T. J. Poprawski, and G. G. Khachatourians. 1994. Production, formulation and application of the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana for insect control: current status. Biocon. Sci. Tech. 4: 3-34.
Lopez, D. C. and G. A. Sword, G. A. 2015. The endophytic fungal entomopathogens Beauveria bassiana and Purpureocillium lilacinum enhance the growth of cultivated cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) and negatively affect survival of the cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa zea). Biol. Control 89: 53-60.
Posada, F. and F. E. Vega. 2005. Establishment of the fungal entomopathogen Beauveria bassiana (Ascomycota: Hypocreales) as an endophyte in cocoa seedlings (Theobroma cacao). Mycologia 97: 1195-1200.