Special Issue "Biological Control of Plant Diseases"

A special issue of Plants (ISSN 2223-7747). This special issue belongs to the section "Plant Protection and Biotic Interactions".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Antonella Vitti
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of Pharmacy, University of Salerno, Via Giovanni Paolo II n. 132, 84084 Fisciano, Salerno, Italy (current).
2. School of Agricultural, Forestry, Food and Environmental Sciences, University of Basilicata, Viale dell'Ateneo Lucano 10, 85100 Potenza, Italy.
Interests: plant virology; viral vectors; biotic and abiotic stress; plant resistance mechanisms; plant disease; plant growth; sustainable production.
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Sabrina Sarrocco
E-Mail
Guest Editor
Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Pisa, Via del Borghetto n. 80, 56124 Pisa, Italy
Interests: plant pathogenic fungi; mycotoxigenic fungi; biocontrol fungi; fungal ecology; fungal secondary metabolites; fungal genome editing
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Climatic conditions changes can severely prejudice crop production and plant-defensive mechanisms at worldwide level. In fact, alterations of plant growth and physiology occur, thus increasing the risk of illness, in particular by abiotic stresses, but also biotic ones due to the modified host–pathogen interactions. Although many plants have developed resilience or tolerance to such stresses, they often cause serious losses, and in some cases, they become the limiting factor of production in both open field and under greenhouse cultivation systems. In such a scenario, it is necessary to introduce new strategies for controlling plant diseases in order to help to maintain ecosystems and to boost sustainable agriculture defense practices.

Among microorganisms that inhabit soils, some species of bacteria and fungi are effective as biocontrol agents (BCAs). They are able to reduce the growth of plant pathogens via several mechanisms, such as antibiosis, competition, cross protection, and parasitism. They also induce different defense responses in host plants, such as systemic acquired resistance (SAR) and/or induced systemic resistance (ISR).

Furthermore, some BCAs determine a higher tolerance of the plants against abiotic stresses due to their action in promoting plant growth and development, synergetic or antagonistic interactions between plant hormones, and antioxidant defense mechanisms. At the same time, the resulting BCAs are highly specific for a certain pathogen and hence are advantageously safe for non-target species.

The knowledge of how BCAs cross-talk and interact with the host plant and how they work to control diseases is constantly developing, also thanks to new tools such as “omics” and genome editing approaches.

In this regard, this Special Issue aims to offer the opportunity for a challenge in sustainable agriculture, providing an up-to-date overview of the actual breakthroughs in the use of biological control of plant diseases against pathogens, parasites, and abiotic stressors. Experts and researchers are invited to contribute with original research, short communications, reviews, hypotheses, opinions, and perspectives on all topics related to biological control of plant diseases.

Dr. Antonella Vitti
Dr. Sabrina Sarrocco
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Plants is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • biological control
  • plant diseases
  • biotic and abiotic stress
  • microorganisms
  • biocontrol agent (BCA)
  • sustainable agriculture

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Article
Assessing the Involvement of Selected Phenotypes of Pseudomonas simiae PICF7 in Olive Root Colonization and Biological Control of Verticillium dahliae
Plants 2021, 10(2), 412; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10020412 - 23 Feb 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 787
Abstract
Pseudomonas simiae PICF7 is an indigenous inhabitant of the olive (Olea europaea L.) rhizosphere/root endosphere and an effective biocontrol agent against Verticillium wilt of olive (VWO), caused by the soil-borne fungus Verticillium dahliae. This study aimed to evaluate the potential involvement [...] Read more.
Pseudomonas simiae PICF7 is an indigenous inhabitant of the olive (Olea europaea L.) rhizosphere/root endosphere and an effective biocontrol agent against Verticillium wilt of olive (VWO), caused by the soil-borne fungus Verticillium dahliae. This study aimed to evaluate the potential involvement of selected phenotypes of strain PICF7 in root colonization ability and VWO biocontrol. Therefore, a random transposon-insertion mutant bank of P. simiae PICF7 was screened for the loss of phenotypes likely involved in rhizosphere/soil persistence (copper resistance), root colonization (biofilm formation) and plant growth promotion (phytase activity). Transposon insertions in genes putatively coding for the transcriptional regulator CusR or the chemotaxis protein CheV were found to affect copper resistance, whereas an insertion in fleQ gene putatively encoding a flagellar regulatory protein hampered the ability to form a biofilm. However, these mutants displayed the same antagonistic effect against V. dahliae as the parental strain. Remarkably, two mutants impaired in biofilm formation were never found inside olive roots, whereas their ability to colonize the root exterior and to control VWO remained unaffected. Endophytic colonization of olive roots was unaltered in mutants impaired in copper resistance and phytase production. Results demonstrated that the phenotypes studied were irrelevant for VWO biocontrol. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biological Control of Plant Diseases)
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Article
Effects of Lacto-Fermented Agricultural By-Products as a Natural Disinfectant against Post-Harvest Diseases of Mango (Mangifera indica L.)
Plants 2021, 10(2), 285; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10020285 - 03 Feb 2021
Viewed by 725
Abstract
Background: the antagonism activity of lactic acid bacteria metabolites has the potential to prevent fungal growth on mango. Methods: the potential of developing natural disinfectant while using watermelon rinds (WR), pineapple (PP), orange peels (OP), palm kernel cake (PKC), and rice bran (RB), [...] Read more.
Background: the antagonism activity of lactic acid bacteria metabolites has the potential to prevent fungal growth on mango. Methods: the potential of developing natural disinfectant while using watermelon rinds (WR), pineapple (PP), orange peels (OP), palm kernel cake (PKC), and rice bran (RB), via lacto-fermentation was investigated. The obtained lactic acid bacteria (LAB) metabolites were then employed and the in vitro antifungal activity toward five spoilage fungi of mango was tested through liquid and solid systems. Besides, the effect of the produced disinfectant on the fungal growth inhibition and quality of mango was investigated. Results: the strains Lactobacillus plantarum ATCC8014 and Lactobacillus fermentum ATCC9338 growing in the substrates PKC and PP exhibited significantly higher in vitro antifungal activity against Colletotrichum gloeosporioides and Botryodiplodia theobromae as compared to other tested LAB strains and substrates. The in-situ results demonstrated that mango samples that were treated with the disinfectant produced from PKC fermented with L. plantarum and L. fermentum had the lowest disease incidence and disease severity index after 16 days shelf life, as well as the lowest conidial concentration. Furthermore, PKC that was fermented by L. fermentum highly maintained the quality of the mango. Conclusions: lactic acid fermentation of PKC by L. fermentum demonstrated a high potential for use as a natural disinfectant to control C. gloeosporioides and B. theobromae on mango. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biological Control of Plant Diseases)
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Article
Identification and Characterization of a Streptomyces albus Strain and Its Secondary Metabolite Organophosphate against Charcoal Rot of Sorghum
Plants 2020, 9(12), 1727; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9121727 - 07 Dec 2020
Viewed by 754
Abstract
Streptomycesalbus strain CAI-21 has been previously reported to have plant growth-promotion abilities in chickpea, pigeonpea, rice, and sorghum. The strain CAI-21 and its secondary metabolite were evaluated for their biocontrol potential against charcoal rot disease in sorghum caused by Macrophomina phaseolina. [...] Read more.
Streptomycesalbus strain CAI-21 has been previously reported to have plant growth-promotion abilities in chickpea, pigeonpea, rice, and sorghum. The strain CAI-21 and its secondary metabolite were evaluated for their biocontrol potential against charcoal rot disease in sorghum caused by Macrophomina phaseolina. Results exhibited that CAI-21 significantly inhibited the growth of the pathogen, M. phaseolina, in dual-culture (15 mm; zone of inhibition), metabolite production (74% inhibition), and blotter paper (90% inhibition) assays. When CAI-21 was tested for its biocontrol potential under greenhouse and field conditions following inoculation of M. phaseolina by toothpick method, it significantly reduced the number of internodes infected (75% and 45% less, respectively) and length of infection (75% and 51% less, respectively) over the positive control (only M. phaseolina inoculated) plants. Under greenhouse conditions, scanning electron microscopic analysis showed that the phloem and xylem tissues of the CAI-21-treated shoot samples were intact compared to those of the diseased stem samples. The culture filtrate of the CAI-21 was purified by various chromatographic techniques, and the active compound was identified as “organophosphate” by NMR and MS. The efficacy of organophosphate was found to inhibit the growth of M. phaseolina in the poisoned food technique. This study indicates that S.albus CAI-21 and its active metabolite organophosphate have the potential to control charcoal rot in sorghum. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biological Control of Plant Diseases)
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Article
Pseudomonas putida Represses JA- and SA-Mediated Defense Pathways in Rice and Promotes an Alternative Defense Mechanism Possibly through ABA Signaling
Plants 2020, 9(12), 1641; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9121641 - 24 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 643
Abstract
The signaling pathways induced by Pseudomonas putida in rice plants at the early plant–rhizobacteria interaction stages, with and without inoculation of Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae, were studied. In the absence of pathogen, P. putida reduced ethylene (ET) production, and promoted root and [...] Read more.
The signaling pathways induced by Pseudomonas putida in rice plants at the early plant–rhizobacteria interaction stages, with and without inoculation of Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae, were studied. In the absence of pathogen, P. putida reduced ethylene (ET) production, and promoted root and stem elongation. Interestingly, gene OsHDA702, which plays an important role in root formation, was found significantly up-regulated in the presence of the rhizobacterium. Although X. oryzae pv. oryzae inoculation enhanced ET production in rice plants, P. putida treatment repressed ET-, jasmonic acid (JA)- and salicylic acid (SA)-mediated defense pathways, and induced the biosynthesis of abscisic acid (ABA), and the overexpression of OsHDA705 and some pathogenesis-related proteins (PRs), which in turn increased the susceptibility of the rice plants against the pathogen. Collectively, this is the first work on the defense signaling induced by plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria in plants at the early interaction stages, and suggests that rhizobacteria stimulate an alternative defense mechanism in plants based on ABA accumulation and OsHDA705 signaling. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biological Control of Plant Diseases)
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Article
Antagonistic Potential of Novel Endophytic Bacillus Strains and Mediation of Plant Defense against Verticillium Wilt in Upland Cotton
Plants 2020, 9(11), 1438; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9111438 - 25 Oct 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 658
Abstract
Verticillium wilt caused by Verticillium dahliae is a threatening disease of cotton, causing economic loss worldwide. In this study, nine endophytic Bacillus strains isolated from cotton roots exhibited inhibitory activity against V. dahliae strain VD-080 in a dual culture assay. B. altitudinis HNH7 [...] Read more.
Verticillium wilt caused by Verticillium dahliae is a threatening disease of cotton, causing economic loss worldwide. In this study, nine endophytic Bacillus strains isolated from cotton roots exhibited inhibitory activity against V. dahliae strain VD-080 in a dual culture assay. B. altitudinis HNH7 and B. velezensis HNH9 were chosen for further experiments based on their high antagonistic activity. The secondary metabolites of HNH7 and HNH9 also inhibited the growth of VD-080. Genetic marker-assisted detection revealed the presence of bacillibactin, surfactin, bacillomycin and fengycin encoding genes in the genome of HNH7 and HNH9 and their corresponding gene products were validated through LC-MS. Scanning electron microscopy revealed mycelial disintegration, curling and shrinkage of VD-080 hyphae after treatment with methanolic extracts of the isolated endophytes. Furthermore, a significant reduction in verticillium wilt severity was noticed in cotton plants treated with HNH7 and HNH9 as compared to control treatments. Moreover, the expression of defense-linked genes, viz., MPK3, GST, SOD, PAL, PPO and HMGR, was considerably higher in plants treated with endophytic Bacillus strains and inoculated with VD-080 as compared to control. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biological Control of Plant Diseases)
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Article
Endophytic Trichoderma Species Isolated from Persea americana and Cinnamomum verum Roots Reduce Symptoms Caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi in Avocado
Plants 2020, 9(9), 1220; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9091220 - 17 Sep 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 789
Abstract
Avocado root rot caused by the oomycete Phytophthora cinnamomi is a severe disease that affects avocado production in Mexico and worldwide. The use of biological control agents such as Trichoderma species isolated from places where the disease is always present, represents an efficient [...] Read more.
Avocado root rot caused by the oomycete Phytophthora cinnamomi is a severe disease that affects avocado production in Mexico and worldwide. The use of biological control agents such as Trichoderma species isolated from places where the disease is always present, represents an efficient alternative to reduce losses. Thus, the objective of this research was to evaluate the biocontrol ability of 10 endophytic Trichoderma spp. strains against P. cinnamomi tested both in vitro and in the greenhouse. The endophytic Trichoderma spp. were recovered from Persea americana and Cinnamomum verum roots, isolated and purified on potato–dextrose–agar medium. Ten strains were identified by phylogenetic reconstruction of the internal transcribed spacer region of rDNA sequences as T. asperellum (T-AS1, T-AS2, T-AS6, and T-AS7), T. harzianum (T-H3, T-H4, and T-H5), T. hamatum (T-A12), T. koningiopsis (T-K8 and T-K11), and P. cinnamomi (CPO-PCU). In vitro dual-culture assay, the percentage of inhibition of radial growth (PIRG) between Trichoderma spp. and P. cinnamomi strains was measured according to the Bell’s scale. PIRG results indicated that T-AS2 reached the highest value of 78.32%, and T-H5 reached the lowest value of 38.66%. In the greenhouse, the infection was evaluated according to the percentage of disease incidence. Plants with the lowest incidence of dead by avocado root rot were those whose seedlings were inoculated with T-AS2 and T-AS7, resulting in only 5% death by root rot caused by P. cinnamomi. The disease incidence of seedlings with wilt symptoms and death decreased more than 50% in the presence of Trichoderma spp. Relying on the results, we conclude that T. asperellum and T. harzianum contribute to the biocontrol of soil-borne pathogenic oomycete P. cinnamomi. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biological Control of Plant Diseases)
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Review

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Review
Secretion-Based Modes of Action of Biocontrol Agents with a Focus on Pseudozyma aphidis
Plants 2021, 10(2), 210; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10020210 - 22 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1280
Abstract
Plant pathogens challenge our efforts to maximize crop production due to their ability to rapidly develop resistance to pesticides. Fungal biocontrol agents have become an important alternative to chemical fungicides, due to environmental concerns related to the latter. Here we review the complex [...] Read more.
Plant pathogens challenge our efforts to maximize crop production due to their ability to rapidly develop resistance to pesticides. Fungal biocontrol agents have become an important alternative to chemical fungicides, due to environmental concerns related to the latter. Here we review the complex modes of action of biocontrol agents in general and epiphytic yeasts belonging to the genus Pseudozyma specifically and P. aphidis in particular. Biocontrol agents act through multiple direct and indirect mechanisms, which are mainly based on their secretions. We discuss the direct modes of action, such as antibiosis, reactive oxygen species-producing, and cell wall-degrading enzyme secretions which can also play a role in mycoparasitism. In addition, we discuss indirect modes of action, such as hyperbiotrophy, induced resistance and growth promotion based on the secretion of effectors and elicitors from the biocontrol agent. Due to their unique characteristics, epiphytic yeasts hold great potential for use as biocontrol agents, which may be more environmentally friendly than conventional pesticides and provide a way to reduce our dependency on fungicides based on increasingly expensive fossil fuels. No less important, the complex mode of action of Pseudozyma-based biocontrol agents can also reduce the frequency of resistance developed by pathogens to these agents. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biological Control of Plant Diseases)
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Review
Paecilomyces and Its Importance in the Biological Control of Agricultural Pests and Diseases
Plants 2020, 9(12), 1746; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9121746 - 10 Dec 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1432
Abstract
Incorporating beneficial microorganisms in crop production is the most promising strategy for maintaining agricultural productivity and reducing the use of inorganic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Numerous microorganisms have been described in the literature as biological control agents for pests and diseases, although some [...] Read more.
Incorporating beneficial microorganisms in crop production is the most promising strategy for maintaining agricultural productivity and reducing the use of inorganic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Numerous microorganisms have been described in the literature as biological control agents for pests and diseases, although some have not yet been commercialised due to their lack of viability or efficacy in different crops. Paecilomyces is a cosmopolitan fungus that is mainly known for its nematophagous capacity, but it has also been reported as an insect parasite and biological control agent of several fungi and phytopathogenic bacteria through different mechanisms of action. In addition, species of this genus have recently been described as biostimulants of plant growth and crop yield. This review includes all the information on the genus Paecilomyces as a biological control agent for pests and diseases. Its growth rate and high spore production rate in numerous substrates ensures the production of viable, affordable, and efficient commercial formulations for agricultural use. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biological Control of Plant Diseases)
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