Fungi isolated from cysts of the beet cyst nematode parasitized its eggs and counterbalanced root damages
Finding beneficial fungi antagonistic toward nematodes is important for developing more sustainable agricultural practices. We isolated abundant fungi from cysts of the beet cyst nematode Heterodera schachtii and tested their interaction with nematodes and sugar beet. By molecular screening of fungal communities colonizing five field populations of H. schachtii using DGGE and Sanger sequencing, three strains identified as Exophiala sp., Pochonia chlamydosporia and Pyrenochaeta sp. were frequently found in infected cysts and then specifically isolated (in pure culture). The three isolates were able to re-infect the cysts and colonize the eggs of H. schachtii in vitro fulfilling Koch’s postulates. In greenhouse trials, the root weight of sugar beet plants grown in substrates inoculated with nematodes and the fungal isolates was significantly higher compared to plants inoculated with nematodes only. The number of cysts propagated on roots was lower in substrates inoculated with Pyrenochaeta sp. than those in substrates inoculated with the other two fungi. However, cyst numbers did not significantly differ from the control because the propagation rate of the nematode increased with the root weight. The proportion of infected eggs per cyst was higher under the fungal treatments than the control, and it increased with the number of propagated cysts. The results showed that the here-studied strains of Exophiala sp., Pochonia chlamydosporia and Pyrenochaeta sp. were frequently found colonizing the nematode cysts of different populations of H. schachtii and were efficient in parasitizing the eggs of the nematode.