Author(s): Handelsman J, Raffel S, Mester EH, Wunderlich L, Grau CR
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Abstract We explored the potential of biological control of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) seedling damping-off caused by Phytophthora megasperma f. sp. medicaginis by screening root-associated bacteria for disease suppression activity in a laboratory bioassay. A total of 700 bacterial strains were isolated from the roots of field-grown alfalfa plants by using Trypticase soy agar. A simple, rapid assay was developed to screen the bacteria for the ability to reduce the mortality of Iroquois alfalfa seedlings that were inoculated with P. megasperma f. sp. medicaginis zoospores. Two-day-old seedlings were planted in culture tubes containing moist vermiculite, and each tube was inoculated with a different bacterial culture. Sufficient P. megasperma f. sp. medicaginis zoospores were added to each tube to result in 100\% mortality of control seedlings. Of the 700 bacterial isolates tested, only 1, which was identified as Bacillus cereus and designated UW85, reduced seedling mortality to 0\% in the initial screen and in two secondary screens. Both fully sporulated cultures containing predominantly released spores and sterile filtrates of these cultures of UW85 were effective in protecting seedlings from damping-off; filtrates of cultures containing predominantly vegetative cells or endospores inside the parent cell had low biocontrol activity. Cultures grown in two semidefined media had significantly greater biocontrol activities than cultures grown in the complex tryptic soy medium. In a small-scale trial in a field infested with P. megasperma f. sp. medicaginis, coating seeds with UW85 significantly increased the emergence of alfalfa. The results suggest that UW85 may have potential as a biocontrol agent for alfalfa damping-off, thus providing an alternative to current disease control strategies.
This article was published in Appl Environ Microbiol
and referenced in Journal of Microbial & Biochemical Technology