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The biological control of air-borne necrotrophic plant pathogens by suppression of spore production

Contract nr: FAIR-CT96-1898
Project nr: 1898
Project type: SC
Starting date: 01/01/1997
Duration: 48 months
Total cost: 2,202,597 EUR
EC Contribution: 1,715,000 EUR
Scientific Officer: Arnaud BORCHARD
Research topic: Plant health

The common saprophytic fungus Ulocladium atrum competes successfully in dead plant material with Botrytis cinerea and other fungi. The natural phenomenon of competition between saprophytic and necrotrophic pathogenic fungi in dead plant material will be exploited in order to suppress the dissemination (sporulation) of the pathogen. Preliminary experiments demonstrated the validity of this approach to control diseases caused by polycyclic air-borne plant pathogens sporulating on dead plant tissue such as B. cinerea (grey mould), a major global pathogen on grapevine, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumber, protein crops and ornamentals. In the EU, in grapevine alone, annual costs of fungicides for control are circa 150 million euro. Fungicide-resistance threathens economic crop production and accumulates the use of chemicals. Breeding for host-resistance against B. cinerea is not likely to be successful. In order to demonstrate its non-specificity, the proposed biocontrol method will also be tested against Septorioses, which causes serious damage in wheat and vegetables.

The aim of this project is to support implementation of the reformed CAP with respect to the reduction of environmentally harmful plant protection products, by developing economically sound production methods compatible with the requirements for the protection of the environment. This is achieved by minimising the use of and dependence on chemicals in the control of plant diseases of leaves, stems and fruits.

A multidisciplinary research effort of universities, research stations and industry will result in a novel, non-specific biological method of sporulation suppression, ready for commercialisation, that can be applied against Botrytis, Septorioses and other necrotrophic pathogens in integrated as well as organic farming systems. Main research components are:

1. A quantitative analysis of interactions between the antagonist and the pathogen in necrotic tissue with respect to environmental factors, spore production in a crop, epidemiology, yield and quality. Biocontrol of B. cinerea will be explored at practical scale in strawberries and the grapevine as field crops and in the tomato as one-season greenhouse crop. Biocontrol of Septorioses will be explored in wheat.
2. Development of a simulation model of interaction in order to predict the efficacy of biocontrol under different environmental conditions.
3. Integration of biocontrol with new fungicides. Assessment of reduction of chemical input and of risk of fungicide-resistance in IPM.
4. The mechanism of substrate colonisation by the antagonist, with an emphasis on the hydrolytic enzymes involved. This is needed for mechanism-oriented formulations and strain selection;
5. Possibilities for mass production of the antagonist through a comparison of various fungal propagules, fermentation conditions and formulations.
6. Preliminary toxicological studies.
7. Technology assessment.

Jürgen KÖHL
Plant Research International
Binnenhaven 5
P.O. BOX 16

NL-6700 AA Wageningen
Tel.: +31 317 47 6017
Fax: +31 317 41 01 13


  • Heinz-Wilhelm DEHNE
    Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms- Universität Bonn
    Nussallee 9
    D-53115 Bonn
    Tel.: +49 228 73 36 31
    Fax: +49 228 73 24 42

  • Philippe NICOT
    I.N.R.A. - Centre de Recherches d'Avignon
    Domaine Saint Maurice
    P.O. BOX 94
    F-84143 Montfavet
    Tel.: +33 4 90 31 63 66
    Fax: +33 4 90 31 63 35

  • Philippe LEPOIVRE
    Faculté Universitaire des Sciences agronomiques de Gembloux
    Passage des Déportés 2
    B-5030 Gembloux
    Tel.: +32 81 62 24 37
    Fax: +32 81 61 01 26

  • Naresh MAGAN
    Cranfield University
    Wharley End - Cranfield
    UK-MK43 0AL Silsoe - Bedford
    Tel.: +44 1234 75 01 11
    Fax: +44 1234 75 09 07


  • Bernadette DUBOS
    I.N.R.A. - Centre de la Vigne de Bordeaux
    B.P. 81
    F-33883 Villenave d' Ornon
    Tel.: +33 5 56 84 32 07
    Fax: +335 56 84 32 22

  • Willem Jacobus RAVENSBERG
    Koppert Biological Systems B.V.
    Veilingweg 17
    P.O. BOX 155
    NL-2650 AD Berkel en Rodenrijs
    Tel.: +31 105 14 04 77
    Fax: +31 105 11 21 57

  • Wopke VAN DER WERF
    Wageningen Agricultural University
    Bornsesteeg 47
    NL-6708 Wageningen
    Tel.: +31 317 48 47 65
    Fax: +31 317 48 48 92
  • Frances Mary DEWEY
    University of Oxford
    South Parks Road
    UK-OX1 3RB Oxford
    Tel.: +44 1865 27 51 16
    Fax: +44 1865 27 50 74

  • Dieter BERG
    Institute for Biotechnology, BAYER-AG/PF/F/Intern. Forschungskooperationen
    Alfred-Nobel-Strasse 50
    D-40789 Monheim
    Tel: +49 217 338 38 57
    fax: +49 217 328 21 50
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