A. Belgrove, Agricultural Research Council-Grain Crops Institute, Potchefstroom 2520, South Africa, and Department of Microbiology and Plant Pathology, Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa;
C. Steinberg, INRA-Université de Bourgogne, Microbiology of Soil and Environment, Dijon, France; and
A. Viljoen, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Stellenbosch, Matieland 7602, South Africa
Nonpathogenic Fusarium oxysporum endophytes from healthy banana roots were evaluated for their ability to reduce Fusarium wilt of banana (Panama disease). Isolates were identified morphologically and by using species-specific primers. Pathogenicity was confirmed by inoculating banana plantlets in the greenhouse. Nonpathogenic F. oxysporum isolates were grouped into 14 haplotype groups by polymerase chain reaction restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of the intergenic spacer region, and representative isolates evaluated for biocontrol of F. oxysporum f. sp. cubense. In the greenhouse, 10 nonpathogenic F. oxysporum isolates were able to significantly reduce Fusarium wilt of banana. The isolate that protected banana plantlets best in the greenhouse, a nonpathogenic F. oxysporum from the root rhizosphere, and Pseudomonas fluorescens WCS 417 were then field tested. When the putative biological control organisms were tested in the field, neither the nonpathogenic F. oxysporum, P. fluorescens, nor combinations thereof reduced Fusarium wilt development significantly. A number of factors could contribute to the lack of field protection, including soil microbial and chemical composition and reduced survival of biocontrol organisms in banana roots. A lack of knowledge regarding the etiology of Fusarium wilt of ‘Cavendish’ banana in the subtropics and the effect of F. oxysporum f. sp. cubense race and banana cultivar in protection of banana by biocontrol organisms should be further investigated.