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Improved plant health by the combination of biological disease control methods

Contract nr: FAIR-CT98-4413
Project nr: 4413
Project type: SC
Starting date: 01/02/1999
Duration: 36 months
Total cost: 1,601,441 EUR
EC Contribution: 1,316,913 EUR
Scientific Officer: Richard HARDWICK
Research topic: Plant health

Reports on the effects of single biological control methods on single plant pathogens are widely reported in the literature. However, combinations of biological control agents in order to target different diseases in one crop have not yet been used in practice. In this project, to establish such a combined control approach, three single biological control methods, (which have shown to reduce the level of disease in at least one of the investigated host-pathogen systems) have been chosen for combined use. These are the resistance-inducing plant extracts, such as those from Reynoutria sachalinensis, the bacterial antagonist Bacillus brevis and the fungal antagonist Sporothrix flocculosa.

This project will combine these biological control strategies in the effective disease management of two major aerial fungal plant pathogens (Botrytis cinerea and powdery mildew), of important protected crops (tomato and cucumber), and of grapes. The control strategies target several developmental stages in the life-cycle of the pathogens that are essential for initiation and establishment of disease. This approach goes beyond the strategy of most other programmes in biocontrol - which merely integrate single techniques against specific pests or diseases - into true pest management schemes. With this novel idea, the reliability of biological disease control strategies will be improved to a degree, so as to fully replace chemical pesticides. In this way, plant health will be enhanced by environmentally friendly and sustainable agricultural methods without the use of chemical fungicides. The first step is to optimise the biological disease control systems -
(i) plant extracts for induced resistance;
(ii) Bacillus antagonist for inhibition of conidial germination and
(iii) fungal antagonists to suppress pathogen growth.
Individually, these have already been shown by the project participants to effectively target developmental stages of the pathogens and reduce the level of disease. Once optimised, the individual performance of these biological methods will be determined, both in the greenhouse and in the field, against B. cinerea and powdery mildew.

The effect of preparation methods and environmental parameters (temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, plant age and type) on the performance and the ability to control the pathogens will be established in vivo, in order to improve the effectiveness of the individual systems. Subsequently, the objective is to integrate the use of these biological methods so that more efficient disease control can be achieved. To do this, the detailed physiological, biochemical and ecological interaction of these components will be worked out in vitro, in vivo, and in situ. Particular emphasis will be placed on those combinations that are compatible, show additive or synergistic effects on disease control and are environmentally friendly with no adverse effects on other life-forms. Successful combinations will be perfected in greenhouse trials (on tomatoes and cucumber) under controlled monitoring of environmental parameters and in field situations (on grapes). The operational procedures will be established optimise the environmental conditions prevailing under the different climatic regimes for the participant countries. This will to provide effective disease control for the different locations. Finally, these combinations will be tested by growers, to determine the effectiveness and suitability of this integrated biological control strategy for use in practice. In this way, the long-term objective and main goal of this work - to enhance plant health and replace the use of chemical fungicides with a more sustainable, reliable biological control procedure - should be achievable.

Current situation/results:
Studies on timing of the microbial antagonists were done and application protocols for extracts from R. sachalinensis were determined in different host / pathogen systems. The induction of resistance was proven in different crop cultivars. Two Greek plant extracts have been tested against B. cinerea on tomato and powdery mildew in cucumber. Based on the determination of effective application intervals, large greenhouse and field trials with single control methods have been undertaken in Southern and Northern Europe and the efficacy in tomato, cucumber and grape against powdery mildew and B. cinerea has been determined. Studies on optimisation of the R. sachalinensis plant extract as well as the microbial antagonists have been performed. One fraction from R. sachalinensis was identified as most active against powdery mildew in cucumber. Currently, investigations on active compounds in this extract fraction by further separation are taking place. Optimisation of the formulation of R. sachalinensis is under way. Results from first year's trials are currently beng incorporated into the detailed planning of combination studies that take place in the second year.

Website: in preparation

Annegret SCHMITT
Federal Biological Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry
Institute for Biological Control
Heinrichstr. 243
D-64287 Darmstadt
Tel.: +49 615 140 72 41
Fax: +49 615 140 72 90


  • Associated contractor to coordinator:
    Ingo TORNIER
    GAB Biotechnologie GmbH
    Eutinger Str. 24
    D-75 223 Niefern-Öschelbronn
    Tel.: +49 723 396 212
    Fax: +49 723 346 97

  • Barrie SEDDON
    University of Aberdeen
    Department of Agriculture
    MacRobert Building
    King Street 581
    UK-AB24 5UD Aberdeen
    Tel.: +44 1224 27 42 25
    Fax: +44 1224 27 37 31

    National Agricultural Research Foundation
    Plant Protection Institute of Patras
    Leoforos Amerikis and National Road
    GR-26004 Patras
    Tel.: +30 61 42 21 42
    Fax: +30 61 45 30 62
  • Aleid Josine DIK
    Research Station for Floriculture and Glasshouse Vegetables
    P.O:Box 8
    NL-2670 AA Naaldwijk
    Tel.: +31 174 63 68 08
    Fax: +31 174 63 68 35

  • Annegret ERNST
    Gebrueder Schaette, KG
    Stahlstrasse 5
    D-88339 Bad Waldsee
    Tel.: +49 752 440 15 17
    Fax: +49 752 440 15 40

  • Nikolaos MALATHRAKIS
    Technological Education Institute
    GR-71500 Heraklion (Crete)
    Tel.: +30 81 31 13 88
    Fax: +30 81 31 82 04

  • Wittko FRANCKE
    Universität Hamburg
    Institut for Organic Chemistry
    Martin-Luther-King-Platz 6
    D-20146 Hamburg
    Tel.: +49 4042 838 28 66
    Fax: +49 4042 838 28 64
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