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Keywords:

  • Biological control;
  • fungal antagonists;
  • Gaeumannomyces;
  • take-all;
  • wheat

Abstract

Take-all disease (Gaeumannomyces graminis var. tritici) in wheat crops is known to be suppressed by naturally occurring antagonistic fungi, closely related to the pathogen, that infect grasses and cereals. This form of suppression was re-investigated because of the changing importance and role of grass weeds and grass covers in arable farming. Natural populations of the competitive fungus Gaeumannomyces cylindrosporus, allowed to develop under rye-grass, were more effective than artificially introduced populations in suppressing the development of take-all in following wheat crops. To be effective, the antagonist needs to be present before the start of wheat cropping. Introducing G. cylindrosporus, but not G. graminis var. graminis (a potential antagonist that is faster growing), into a previous crop, or just after the previous crop, sometimes suppressed take-all, but the effect was small. It is concluded that, for any future attempts at biocontrol by these fungi, they should be introduced into a preceding crop not susceptible to take-all. Take-all inoculum in the soil should be at a minimum and effective hosts of the take-all pathogen must not be present as weeds or volunteers.