Biocontrol of the toxigenic plant pathogen Fusarium culmorum by soil fauna in an agroecosystem
In 2011 and 2013, a field experiment was conducted in a winter wheat field at Adenstedt (northern Germany) to investigate biocontrol and interaction effects of important members of the soil food web (Lumbricus terrestris, Annelida; Folsomia candida, Collembola and Aphelenchoides saprophilus, Nematoda) on the phytopathogenic fungus Fusarium culmorum in wheat straw. Therefore, soil fauna was introduced in mesocosms in defined numbers and combinations and exposed to either Fusarium-infected or non-infected wheat straw. L. terrestris was introduced in all faunal treatments and combined either with F. candida or A. saprophilus or both. Mesocosms filled with a Luvisol soil, a cover of different types of wheat straw and respective combinations of faunal species were established outdoors in the topsoil of a winter wheat field after harvest of the crop. After a time span of 4 and 8 weeks, the degree of wheat straw coverage of mesocosms was quantified to assess its attractiveness for the soil fauna. The content of Fusarium biomass in residual wheat straw and soil was determined using a double-antibody sandwich (DAS)-ELISA method. In both experimental years, the infected wheat straw was incorporated more efficiently into the soil than the non-infected control straw due to the presence of L. terrestris in all faunal treatments than the non-infected control straw. In addition, Fusarium biomass was reduced significantly in all treatments after 4 weeks (2011: 95–99%; 2013:15–54%), whereupon the decline of fungal biomass was higher in faunal treatments than in non-faunal treatments and differed significantly from them. In 2011, Fusarium biomass of the faunal treatments was below the quantification limit after 8 weeks. In 2013, a decline of Fusarium biomass was observed, but the highest content of Fusarium biomass was still found in the non-faunal treatments after 8 weeks. In the soil of all treatments, Fusarium biomass was below the quantification limit. The earthworm species L. terrestris revealed a considerable potential as an effective biocontrol agent contributing to a sustainable control of a Fusarium plant pathogen in wheat straw, thus reducing the infection risk for specific plant diseases in arable fields.
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