Biological control studies of Phytophthora Parasitica root rot of boxwood using multiple antagonists

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Phytophthora parasitica is an important root rot pathogen of American and English boxwood, Buxus sempervirens and B. sempervirens var. suffruticosa, respectively, shrubs used extensively in the landscape in Virginia and North Carolina. Studies were undertaken to screen microorganisms for antagonism to Phytophthora in vitro; test two polymers, carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) and methylcellulose (MC) for their suitability as carriers, storage media, and carbon substrates; and finally to determine the efficacy of selected antagonist pairs in controlling Phytophthora root rot on containerized American boxwood.

On the basis of in vitro inhibition tests, 14 organisms were selected. These included six bacteria, five fungi and three actinomycetes.

Populations of conidia-forming fungal isolates increased or remained fairly stable when stored in 0.25% suspensions of CMC and MC, indicating that spores may be a more suitable propagule than mycelial fragments when storing fungal isolates for more than 1 week. No significant or consistent changes in population viability occurred among the actinomycete and bacterial isolates.

Carboxymethyl cellulose was a more readily utilizable carbon source than MC as indicated by the smaller specific growth rates of microorganisms in MC. Methylcellulose was not utilized by actinomycete and non-spore-forming fungal isolates.

Six of seven antagonist pairs were efficacious in controlling root rot in the greenhouse when suspended in CMC. In general, application of antagonist pairs to boxwoods stimulated growth relative to control plants.

The polymers may provide the biocontrol organisms with a protective environment and/or food base for establishment of stable population levels in the infection court, providing protection of the root system when challenged with the pathogen.