• antifungal activity;
  • plant extract;
  • seed treatment;
  • seedborne fungi;
  • seedling vigour;
  • sorghum

Treatment of seeds with an aqueous extract of yucca (YE), Yucca schidigera, was evaluated for antifungal activity against seedborne pathogens as well as its effect on seed germination and seedling growth of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor). The antifungal effect of YE was observed against Leptosphaeria sacchari (syn. Phoma sorghina) when the extract was applied at 2·5 and 10% concentrations. At 10% concentration, YE significantly reduced not only the incidence of L. sacchari, but also that of Fusarium spp., Cochliobolus lunatus (syn. Curvularia lunata) and Cladosporium spp. The effect of 10% YE on seedborne fungi was broader than the fungicide fludioxonil, particularly with regard to Fusarium. Furthermore, the number of normal, healthy-looking seedlings increased in a dose-responsive manner with YE treatment. Seedling vigour was also stimulated by YE but no correlation was observed with the concentrations tested. Under glasshouse conditions, the treatment of seeds with 10% YE increased the emergence of seedlings and plant height and reduced the number of seedlings with crown rot compared to negative controls and saponin. The positive effect was similar to the effect obtained with fungicide-treated seeds. Treatment of seeds with synthetic saponin inhibited seedborne fungi less effectively and also negatively affected germination and vigour of the seedlings, compared to the treatment with YE. The results demonstrate an agronomic potential for the use of YE as a biofungicide for seed treatment of sorghum. The difference between the antifungal and the vigour-stimulating effects of YE warrants further investigation.