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Theoretical Modeling Suggests that Synergy May Result from Combined Use of Two Biocontrol Agents for Controlling Foliar Pathogens Under Spatial Heterogeneous Conditions

August 2013 , Volume 103 , Number  8
Pages  768 - 775

X.-M. Xu and M. J. Jeger

First author: State Key Laboratory of Crop Stress Biology in Arid Areas and College of Plant Protection, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China, and Pest and Pathogen Ecology for Sustainable Crop Management, East Malling Research, New Road, East Malling, ME19 6BJ, UK; second author: Division of Ecology and Evolution and Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London, Silwood Park campus, Ascot, SL5 7PY, UK.

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Accepted for publication 14 March 2013.

There has been a trend for combined use of several biocontrol agents (BCAs) with an expectation of synergistic interactions among BCAs. However, previous modeling studies suggested that, under homogeneous and temporal-fluctuating conditions, combined use of two BCAs, in most cases, only results in efficacies similar to the more efficacious one used alone; a result consistent with published experimental data. The present modeling study investigated whether combined use of two mycoparasitic BCAs, two competitive BCAs, or a mycoparasitic and a competitive BCA leads to synergistic interactions under spatially heterogeneous conditions. In the model, there were two patches with varying relative sizes and two BCAs differentially adapted to the two patches. Within the range of model parameter values considered, combined use of two BCAs is more effective than the more efficacious BCA used alone in 72% of the simulated cases. There was also a considerable proportion (≈21%) of model simulations in which combined use of two BCAs led to synergy (i.e., efficacy was greater than expected under the assumption of Bliss independence, especially when each of the two BCAs can only survive in one [different] patch). Combined use of a mycoparasitic BCA with a competitive one is more likely to result in synergy than the other two BCA combinations. When biocontrol activities of individual BCAs are low or moderate, biocontrol efficacy arising from combined use of two BCAs does not depend greatly on biocontrol mechanisms. However, for high BCA activities, combined use with at least one competitive BCA resulted in better control than combined use of two mycoparasitic BCAs. The present modeling study emphasized the need for understanding the degree of spatial patchiness and quantitative relationships between biocontrol activities and external conditions in order to apply commercial BCAs effectively.

Additional keywords: spatial heterogeneity.

© 2013 The American Phytopathological Society