Beneficial soil microbes have long been recognized for their ability to improve plant growth, to antagonize pathogens and to prime plants against biotic stressors. Nevertheless, their ability to enhance plant resistance against arthropod pests remains largely unexplored, especially in crop plants such as pepper. Herein, we assessed the effects of several fungal and bacterial species/strains applied in the soil on the performance of key pests of pepper plants. Specifically, we recorded the impact of pepper inoculation with commercial strains of beneficial bacteria (Bacillus amyloliquefaciens
spp.) as well as fungi (Trichoderma
spp. and Cordyceps fumosorosea
) on the population growth of the green peach aphid, Myzus persicae
, and the two-spotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae
. Furthermore, we recorded the effects of microbial inoculation on plant growth parameters, such as stem and root weight. We found that both pests can be negatively affected by microbial inoculation: spider mites laid up to 40% fewer eggs, and the number of aphids were up to 50% less on pepper-inoculated plants, depending on the microbe. We also recorded a variation among the tested microbes in their impact on herbivore performance, but no significant effects were found on plant biomass. Our results add to the growing literature that beneficial soil microbes may be capable of exerting biocontrol capabilities against aboveground herbivorous pests possibly, among other means, via the elicitation of plant defense responses.
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