Cesare Gessler, and
First, second, and fourth authors: Department of Sustainable Agro-Ecosystems and Bioresources, Research and Innovation Centre, Fondazione Edmund Mach (FEM), Via E. Mach 1, 38010 S. Michele all'Adige, Italy; and first and third authors: Institute of Integrative Biology, ETH Zürich, 8092 Zürich.
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Accepted for publication 14 June 2013.
Enhancement of plant defense through the application of resistance inducers seems a promising alternative to chemical fungicides for controlling crop diseases but the efficacy can be affected by abiotic factors in the field. Plants respond to abiotic stresses with hormonal signals that may interfere with the mechanisms of induced systemic resistance (ISR) to pathogens. In this study, we exposed grapevines to heat, drought, or both to investigate the effects of abiotic stresses on grapevine resistance induced by Trichoderma harzianum T39 (T39) to downy mildew. Whereas the efficacy of T39-induced resistance was not affected by exposure to heat or drought, it was significantly reduced by combined abiotic stresses. Decrease of leaf water potential and upregulation of heat-stress markers confirmed that plants reacted to abiotic stresses. Basal expression of defense-related genes and their upregulation during T39-induced resistance were attenuated by abiotic stresses, in agreement with the reduced efficacy of T39. The evidence reported here suggests that exposure of crops to abiotic stress should be carefully considered to optimize the use of resistance inducers, especially in view of future global climate changes. Expression analysis of ISR marker genes could be helpful to identify when plants are responding to abiotic stresses, in order to optimize treatments with resistance inducers in field.
© 2013 The American Phytopathological Society