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Mechanistically Compatible Mixtures of Bacterial Antagonists Improve Biological Control of Fire Blight of Pear

January 2011 , Volume 101 , Number  1
Pages  113 - 123

V. O. Stockwell, K. B. Johnson, D. Sugar, and J. E. Loper

First, second, and fourth authors: Oregon State University, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Corvallis 97331; third author: Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, Oregon State University, Medford 97502; and fourth author: United States Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service, Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory, 3420 NW Orchard Avenue, Corvallis, OR 97330.

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Accepted for publication 3 September 2010.

Mixtures of biological control agents can be superior to individual agents in suppressing plant disease, providing enhanced efficacy and reliability from field to field relative to single biocontrol strains. Nonetheless, the efficacy of combinations of Pseudomonas fluorescens A506, a commercial biological control agent for fire blight of pear, and Pantoea vagans strain C9-1 or Pantoea agglomerans strain Eh252 rarely exceeds that of individual strains. A506 suppresses growth of the pathogen on floral colonization and infection sites through preemptive exclusion. C9-1 and Eh252 produce peptide antibiotics that contribute to disease control. In culture, A506 produces an extracellular protease that degrades the peptide antibiotics of C9-1 and Eh252. We hypothesized that strain A506 diminishes the biological control activity of C9-1 and Eh252, thereby reducing the efficacy of biocontrol mixtures. This hypothesis was tested in five replicated field trials comparing biological control of fire blight using strain A506 and A506 aprX::Tn5, an extracellular protease-deficient mutant, as individuals and combined with C9-1 or Eh252. On average, mixtures containing A506 aprX::Tn5 were superior to those containing the wild-type strain, confirming that the extracellular protease of A506 diminished the biological control activity of C9-1 and Eh252 in situ. Mixtures of A506 aprX::Tn5 and C9-1 or Eh252 were superior to oxytetracycline or single biocontrol strains in suppressing fire blight of pear. These experiments demonstrate that certain biological control agents are mechanistically incompatible, in that one strain interferes with the mechanism by which a second strain suppresses plant disease. Mixtures composed of mechanistically compatible strains of biological control agents can suppress disease more effectively than individual biological control agents.

Additional keywords: Erwinia herbicola, herbicolin, Pantocin, Pyrus, stigma.

© 2011 The American Phytopathological Society