Crop loss due to disease-causing fungi can be reduced using environmentally friendly means known as biological control. Such control measures are urgently needed to decrease the use of chemical pesticides in farming. Although microfungi in the Hypocrea-Trichoderma group are effective for biological control of crop pathogens, their use in biological control is hindered by lack of knowledge about their classification and characterization. Trichoderma and its sexual state Hypocrea are a confused complex of species that are difficult to identify. Moreover, the probability of finding new Trichoderma species and biotypes for use as biological control agents is high in unusual habitats and unexplored geographic areas.
The objectives of this research are to:
- Develop a phylogeny for Hypocrea, Trichoderma and related fungi.
- Develop a characterization and identification scheme for Hypocrea, Trichoderma and related groups used in the biological control of plant pathogenic fungi on specific commodities.
The results of achieving these objectives will be to accurately define and characterize these beneficial fungi using microscopic and molecular techniques in order to determine which strains are most useful as biological control agents. Species within these complexes will be differentiated based on their microscopic and genetic characters. The products of this research will be accounts of the species in related groups of Hypocrea-Trichoderma based on phylogenetic relationships. In addition, an on-line, interactive identification system will be developed using the same data that are included in the monographic studies allowing rapid identifications based on unusual, morphological or cultural characteristics. This research will contribute to the discovery and development of effective non-chemical agents that are well-characterized and safely applied to control fungal diseases of crops.