• Bacterial biological control agent;
  • Non-target effect;
  • Impact;
  • Plant pathogenic fungus;
  • Biological control agent


Microorganisms have knowingly been used during the last century to control plant diseases. During the last decades, research and application of biological control agents (BCAs) as a pest control strategy have gained increasing attention. This review focuses specifically on non-target effects of bacterial BCAs that are used to suppress root pathogenic fungi. It attempts to critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of non-target effect studies published to date and relate them to the success of the BCA in fungal pathogen control. Significant non-target effects of BCAs have indeed been observed, but these are generally small in scale and limited to a growth season, and have not been proven to affect soil health. We discuss these studies and point out what we believe are notable deficiencies. Among the modes of disease suppression by BCAs, antibiotic production is believed to be of major importance. But assurances that in situ antibiotic production actually occurs in environmental samples are lacking in the non-target effect studies. Also the effectiveness of the BCA on the target pathogen, the absence of appropriate controls for inoculation effects, and the presence of pathogenic fungi are missing in most studies. In future non-target effect studies we recommend focusing on proven effective BCAs and clearly distinguishing effects of antimicrobial compounds from effects of general microbial activity.