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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOLOGY, BIOLOGICAL CONTROL, AND MOLECULAR GENETICS OF ROOT DISEASES OF WHEAT, BARLEY AND BIOFUELS BRASSICAS

Location: Root Disease and Biological Control Research

Title: Biological control of soilborne pathogens: looking back and forward

Authors
item Weller, David
item Thomashow, Linda

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: October 30, 2010
Publication Date: December 15, 2010
Citation: Weller, D.M., Thomashow, L.S. 2010. Biological control of soilborne pathogens: looking back and forward. The Pytopathological Society of Japan (PSJ) Soilborne Disease Workshop Report. 25:48-66.

Interpretive Summary: By the year 2050, there will be nine billion people on earth to feed using the same amount or less land and water as is currently available. One-third of all agricultural commodities grown worldwide are lost to diseases and other pests, and soilborne diseases account for a significant amount of those annual losses. Crop plants often lack resistance to many soilborne fungal pathogens and pathogenic nematodes. Microbial-based mechanisms are often the first line of defense for roots against soilborne diseases. Over the last four decades, considerable progress has been made in understanding and in enhancing microbial-based methods of disease control, which has improved the management of soilborne diseases. Dozens of biocontrol agents have been developed for commercial use and their effectiveness continues to improve. A better understanding of the mechanisms of disease suppressive soils has resulted in their greater use by farmers. Farmers worldwide are being challenged to use less pesticides and fumigants and to apply more sustainable cropping-practices. In addition, greater numbers of consumers are demanding pesticide-free food. The call for increased sustainability in farming and the need to produce more food will present tremendous challenges to develop inexpensive and highly effective biocontrol technology and to expand its use. This paper focuses on describing successes in developing biocontrol technology and understanding suppressive soils, and the research challenges that must be overcome to make the field of biological control capable of meeting the demands of 21st century agriculture.

Technical Abstract: By the year 2050 there will be 9 billion people on earth to feed using the same amount or less land and water as is currently available for agricultural production. Currently, about one-third of all potential agricultural commodities grown worldwide are lost to diseases and other pests. Soilborne pathogens that cause root and crown rots, wilts and damping-off diseases account for a significant amount of those annual losses. Unlike for many foliar diseases, crop plants often lack resistance to many of the most common and ubiquitous soilborne fungal pathogens and many species of pathogenic nematodes. Microbial-based mechanisms often constitute the first line of defense for roots against soilborne diseases. Over the last 40 years, considerable progress has been made in understanding and in enhancing or augmenting microbial-based methods of disease control, which has improved the management of soilborne diseases using sustainable practices. Dozens of biocontrol agents (BCAs) have been developed worldwide for commercial use and their effectiveness continues to improve. In addition, a better understanding of the mechanism(s) of disease suppressive soils has resulted in their greater use by farmers as a part of their normal management practices. However, farmers worldwide are being challenged to do more-- to use less pesticides and fumigants and to apply more sustainable cropping-practices-- and greater numbers of consumers are demanding pesticide-free food. The call for increased sustainability in farming and the concurrent need to produce more food will present researchers with tremendous challenges to develop inexpensive and more highly effective biocontrol technology and to expand its use. This paper will focus on describing successes over the last four decades in developing biocontrol technology and understanding suppressive soils, and the research challenges that must be faced and overcome to make the field of biological control capable of meeting the demands of 21st century agriculture.

Last Modified: 4/24/2014
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