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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Fort Pierce, Florida » U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory » Subtropical Plant Pathology Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #289266

Title: Considerations for using bacteriophages for plant disease control

item JONES, JEFFREY - University Of Florida
item VALLAD, GARY - University Of Florida
item IRIARTE, FANNY - Kansas State University
item OBRADOVIC, ALESKA - University Of Belgrade
item WERNSING, MINE - University Of Florida
item JACKSON, LEE - Utah State University
item BALOGH, BOTOND - Nichino America, Inc
item Hong, Jason
item MOMOL, TIMUR - University Of Florida

Submitted to: Bacteriophage
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/1/2012
Publication Date: 10/1/2012
Citation: Jones, J., Vallad, G., Iriarte, F., Obradovic, A., Wernsing, M.H., Jackson, L., Balogh, B., Hong, J.C., Momol, T. 2012. Considerations for using bacteriophages for plant disease control. Bacteriophage. 2(4):208-214.

Interpretive Summary: Approaches for managing plant diseases caused by bacteria are limited due to the pathogens’ ability to multiply rapidly when conditions are conducive, and the lack of an effective chemical control. Chemical compound controls, including the application of antibiotics and copper-based compounds, when applied frequently select for bacterial populations that can adapt and become resistant to these compounds. One promising proposed alternative to these chemical compound controls is the use of bacteriophages. Bacteriophages are viruses that infect a bacterium and some of these viruses can cause the bacterial cell to lyse. However, phage therapy too has its restrictions. This paper provides a detailed history of use of phage therapy to control plant diseases, and explores the limitations and offers possible solutions.

Technical Abstract: Bacteriophages as biological control agents for controlling plant diseases in the phyllosphere face significant challenges. A number of factors must be considered when considering phage therapy for bacterial plant pathogens. Given that success requires high populations of phage be present in close proximity to the pathogen at critical times in the disease cycle, the single biggest impediment that affects the efficacy of bacteriophages is UV. Therefore, designing strategies that take into account the effects of UV are critical. The timing of application of phages to the phyllosphere can be altered. For instance, instead of morning or afternoon application of phages, they can be applied late in the day to extend the time high populations of phage persist on leaf surfaces without adverse effects of UV. Protective formulations have been identified which prolong viable phages on the leaf surface; however, UV continues to be the major limiting factor indicating a need for improved technology. Other strategies, which have been developed to potentially increase persistence on leaf surfaces, rely on establishing non-pathogenic or attenuated bacterial strains in the phyllosphere that are sensitive to the phage(s) specific to the target bacterium. We have also learned that selecting the correct phages for disease control is critical. This requires careful monitoring of bacterial strains in the field to minimize development of bacterial strains with resistance to the deployed bacteriophages. We also have data that indicate that selecting the phages based on in vivo assays may also be important when developing use for field application. Although bacteriophages have potential in biological control for plant disease control, there are major obstacles which must be considered.