Modern agriculture is expected to face an increasing global demand for food while also needing to comply with higher sustainability standards. Therefore, control of crop pathogens requires new, green alternatives to current methods. Potatoes are susceptible to several bacterial diseases, with infections by soft rot Enterobacteriaceae (SRE) being a significant contributor to the major annual losses. As there are currently no efficient ways of combating SRE, we sought to develop an approach that could easily be incorporated into the potato production pipeline. To this end, 46 phages infecting the emerging potato pathogen Dickeya solani
were isolated and thoroughly characterized. The 46 isolated phages were grouped into three different groups based on DNA similarity, representing two distinct clusters and a singleton. One cluster showed similarity to phages previously used to successfully treat soft rot in potatoes, whereas the remaining phages were novel and showed only very limited similarity to previously isolated phages. We selected six diverse phages in order to create the hereto most complex phage cocktail against SRE. The cocktail was applied in a proof-of-principle experiment to treat soft rot in potatoes under simulated storage conditions. We show that the phage cocktail was able to significantly reduce the incidence of soft rot as well as disease severity after 5 days of storage post-infection with Dickeya solani
. This confirms results from previous studies that phages represent promising biocontrol agents against SRE infection in potato.
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