Two molecularly identified tomato isolates, Trichoderma asperelloides
Ta41 and Rhizoctonia solani
Rs33, were characterized and antagonistically evaluated. The dual culture technique showed that Ta41 had a high antagonistic activity of 83.33%, while a light microscope bioassay demonstrated that the Ta41 isolate over-parasitized the pathogen completely. Under greenhouse conditions, the application of Ta41 was able to promote tomato plant growth and had a significant increase in plant height, root length, and shoot fresh, shoot dry, root fresh, and root dry weight. It also improved chlorophyll content and total phenol content significantly, both in protective and in curative treatments. The protective treatment assay exhibited the lowest disease index (16.00%), while the curative treatment showed a disease index of 33.33%. At 20 days post-inoculation, significant increases in the relative expression levels of four defense-related genes (PR-1, PR-2, PR-3, and CHS) were observed in all Ta41-treated plants when compared with the non-treated plants. Interestingly, the plants treated with Ta41 alone showed the highest expression, with relative transcriptional levels of CHS, PR-3, PR-1, and PR-2 that were, compared with the control, 3.91-, 3.13-, 2.94-, and 2.69-fold higher, respectively, and the protective treatment showed relative transcriptional levels that were 3.50-, 3.63-, 2.39-, and 2.27-fold higher, respectively. Consequently, the ability of Ta41 to promote tomato growth, suppress Rs33 growth, and induce systemic resistance supports the incorporation of Ta41 as a potential bioagent for controlling root rot disease and increasing the productivity of crops, including tomatoes.
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