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Fertilization affects severity of disease caused by fungal plant pathogens

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E-mail: seby31@zeroone.net

Abstract

Commercial fertilizers are commonly applied in farming to maximize crop yield. Lifting nutrient limitation to plant growth when water and light conditions are sufficient may permit plants to grow to the maximum of their ability; however, plant ability to resist pathogen infections is also modified. A meta-analysis was conducted on 57 articles to identify the way plant disease severity of fungal pathogen-induced infection is modified following fertilization, and the key regulators of such an effect. The analysis largely focused on N fertilization events in order to minimize the effect of heterogeneity that could result from differences in the way different nutrient fertilizers are able to modify plant disease severity. Fungal pathogen identity and fungal pathogen lifestyle were the main significant regulators affecting the extent of the modification of plant disease resistance following N fertilization, whereas contradictory results were obtained with the susceptibility of plant species. No differences were detected between pot or field experiments and following artificial or natural infection. Although in the vast majority of instances N fertilization increased disease severity, characteristic plant species and fungal pathogens could be identified for which disease severity following N fertilization declined. It is concluded that the potential of some plant species such as Solanum spp. to show reduced disease severity following N fertilization requires further investigation, as in such cases N fertilization could potentially be used as an additional means of suppressing fungal pathogens.

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