Soil and Land Resources Division, Department of Plant, Soil, and Entomological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844
One drawback of traditional methods for fungal biomass measurement is the inability to distinguish biomass of an introduced fungus from that of the indigenous microbial community in nonsterile soil. We quantified biomass of a specific fungal biological control agent in nonsterile soil using epifluorescence microscopy and image analysis of green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing Trichoderma harzianum (ThzID1-M3). Numbers of colony forming units on a semiselective medium were compared with biomass estimates from image analysis, after ThzID1-M3 was incubated in soil that either remained moist (-0.05 MPa) for 14 to 21 days or remained moist for approximately 5 days and then was allowed to dry to <-3.0 MPa. Recovery of significant numbers of ThzID1-M3 propagules lagged approximately 3 days behind initiation of hyphal growth. Reductions in both colony counts and biomass were observed over time when soil was allowed to dry. However, in soil that remained moist, colony counts increased over a 14- to 21-day period even though biomass declined after approximately 3 to 5 days. Our results confirm that use of GFP, along with epifluorescence microscopy, is a useful tool to distinguish active hyphal biomass, the form of the fungus that is functional for biological control, from inactive propagules such as conidia or chlamydospores that are enumerated by plate counts.