A simple inhibition coefficient for quantifying potency of biocontrol agents against plant-pathogenic fungi

Jonathan A. Cray, Jonathan D. R. Houghton, Louise R. Cooke, John E. Hallsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Microbial interactions depend on a range of biotic and environmental variables, and are both dynamic and unpredictable. For some purposes, and under defined conditions, it is nevertheless imperative to evaluate the inhibitory efficacy of microbes, such as those with potential as biocontrol agents. We selected six, phylogenetically diverse microbes to determine their ability to inhibit the ascomycete Fusarium
coeruleum, a soil-dwelling pathogen of potato tubers that causes the storage disease dry rot. Interaction assays, where colony development was quantified (for both fungal pathogen and potential control agents), were therefore carried out on solid media. The key parameters that contributed to, and were indicative of, inhibitory efficacy were identified as: fungal growth-rates (i) prior to contact with the biocontrol
agent and (ii) if/once contact with the biocontrol agent was established (i.e. in the zone of mixed
culture), and (iii) the ultimate distance traveled by the fungal mycelium. It was clear that there was no correlation between zones of fungal inhibition and the overall reduction in the extent of fungal colony development. An inhibition coefficient was devised which incorporated the potential contributions of distal inhibition of fungal growth-rate; prevention of mycelium development in the vicinity of the biocontrol
agent; and ability to inhibit plant-pathogen growth-rate in the zone of mixed culture (in a ratio of 2:2:1). The values derived were 84.2 for Bacillus subtilis (QST 713), 74.0 for Bacillus sp. (JC12GB42), 30.7 for Pichia anomala (J121), 19.3 for Pantoea agglomerans (JC12GB34), 13.9 for Pantoea sp. (S09:T:12), and
21.9 (indicating a promotion of fungal growth) for bacterial strain (JC12GB54). This inhibition coefficient, with a theoretical maximum of 100, was consistent with the extent of F. coeruleum-colony development (i.e. area, in cm2) and assays of these biocontrol agents carried out previously against Fusarium
spp., and other fungi. These findings are discussed in relation to the dynamics and inherent complexity of natural ecosystems, and the need to adapt models for use under specific sets of conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-100
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Control
Early online date15 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015

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