Plant Research International, P.O. Box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen, the Netherlands
The saprophytic fungus Ulocladium atrum was selected for its ability to competitively exclude Botrytis spp. from aboveground necrotic plant tissues which can play a crucial role in the epidemiology of diseases caused by necrotrophic Botrytis spp. Fungal growth in necrotic aboveground tissues can be hampered by fluctuating water availability. Adaptation to these adverse conditions is a key factor for the successful establishment of an antagonist population in this niche. Conidia of U. atrum germinated at water potentials between -1 and -7 MPa on water agar. Germinated conidia survived one to three interruptions of moist incubation by periods at -10 or -42 MPa. The speed of germination was significantly slower with interruption of the moist period as compared with the control, which had continuously moist incubation. However, the maximum germination percentage was the same for conidia incubated with or without interruption of the moist incubation. In bioassays with necrotic cyclamen leaves at -1, -3, and -7 MPa, U. atrum significantly reduced the sporulation of B. cinerea by more than 80%. The results demonstrate that U. atrum tolerates water stress during competitive substrate colonization with B. cinerea. The antagonist is, therefore, an attractive candidate for field applications on aboveground tissues.