Department of Plant Pathology, 1680 Madison Ave., The Ohio State University, OARDC, Wooster 44691-4096
Diverse Pseudomonas spp. may act as biological controls of plant pathogens, but the ecology of those natural populations is not well understood. And, while biocontrol potential has been identified in multiple pseudomonad strains, the linkages between genotype and phenotype have yet to be fully delineated. However, intensive studies of one class of biocontrol strains, i.e., those that can produce 2,4-diacetylphloroglucionl (DAPG), have provided new insights into the diversity, distribution, and interactions of biocontrol pseudomonads. Those studies also laid the foundation for future research and development of pseudomonad-based biocontrol strategies. Over the past several years, numerous studies have also revealed that biocontrol pseudomonads are widely distributed in agricultural soils, and that multiple crop and soil factors can affect their abundance and activities. Recent work has shown that a variety of farm management practices that reduce soilborne disease pressure can also alter the rhizosphere abundance of DAPG producers in complex ways. Such studies provide support for the hypothesis of an ecological feedback mechanism whereby a native biocontrol population increase and subsequently reduce root disease severity following infection. It is well established that complex biological interactions can take place among bio-control pseudomonads, plant pathogens, their hosts, and other members of the microbial community. The net result of such interactions likely dilutes biocontrol efficacy at the field scale. Nonetheless, inoculation can be effective, and several successful applications of biocontrol pseudomonads have been developed. Future applications of microbial ecology research will hopefully improve the consistency and efficacy of bio-control mediated by Pseudomonas spp. Current applications and future opportunities for improving pseudomonad-based biological control are discussed.