Location: Bioenergy Research Unit
Title: Biological control agents for suppression of post-harvest diseases of potatoes: strategies on discovery and development Authors
Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: January 13, 2012
Publication Date: January 13, 2012
Citation: Slininger, P.J., Schisler, D.A. 2012. Biological control agents for suppression of post-harvest diseases of potatoes: strategies on discovery and development. In: Dhanasekaran, N., Panneerselvam, A., editors. Fungicides for Plant and Animal Diseases. Rijeka, Croatia: In-Tech. p. 141-166. Technical Abstract: As used in plant pathology, the term "biological control" or its short form “biocontrol” commonly refers to the decrease in the inoculum or the disease-producing activity of a pathogen accomplished through one or more organisms, including the host plant but excluding man. Biological control of plant pathogens naturally occurs at some level in all agricultural ecosystems, sometimes to a degree where symptoms of disease are noticeably reduced. Thousands of potential microbial biocontrol agents have been isolated from agricultural fields and crops during research over the last 80 years, yet only a few are in commercial use. Recently, public health and safety concerns about the environmental impact of chemical pesticides have led to consideration of biological control as a natural approach to maintaining crop health. Despite environmental incentives and strong research efforts, commercialization of biocontrol agents has been slow to evolve. The momentum of the chemical industry is difficult to shift, and fermentation processes tend to be more expensive to operate than synthetic chemical processes. Yet there is a demand for biological control products, especially in the organic and agricultural niche markets, where there is no efficient chemical competitor. Indeed, the tide has been turning, and a recent story in Chemical and Engineering News has indicated that during the last decade, the growth in sales of biological pest control agents has significantly outpaced that of chemicals. However, given this market demand, the fundamental methods of economical large-scale production and application of biological control agents are still lacking and need to be developed. Many aspects of biocontrol agent production and development represent untrodden territory in the progression of industrial fermentation technology beyond its well-established food and pharmaceuticals niche. Distinguishing them from traditional fermentation products, biocontrol agents must not only be produced in high yield but must also meet the following quality criteria: high (near 100%) retention of cell viability with maintenance of crop compatibility and consistent bioefficacy during several months of storage. This article will focus on the control of post-harvest fungal pathogens, which present unique opportunities but also challenges. Though accurately determining the extent of losses is difficult and few reports are available, it has been estimated that post-harvest decay accounts for an approximate 25% loss of fresh commodities. Biological control using microbial antagonists can be an appropriate tool for managing post-harvest disease problems, especially in crops which are stored under controlled temperatures and high relative humidities. Such controlled storage environments represent a luxury not found when attempting to introduce microbial biological control agents into the comparatively harsh, variable environments found at the infection courts of fungal pathogens of field-grown plants. In recent years, a considerable research attention has focused on biologically controlling rots of fruits post harvest. In this chapter, research examples will be reviewed to illustrate the challenges and strategies of developing processes to manufacture and deliver biological agents for post-harvest potato disease control. Concepts to be covered will include the following: market opportunities, choosing pathosystems for biological control, enrichment techniques to enhance new strain discovery, strategies for ranking strains for commercial suitability, mode of action, production considerations, market-broadening functionality, co-cultivation of strains as the next generation biocontrol product, high-throughput screen concept for optimizing biocontrol agent performance from production to delivery, remaining knowledge gaps, and future investigations.