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Final Activity Report Summary - TRICHONEMA (A new commercial integrated biocontrol product against soil-borne diseases and phytophagous nematodes based on Trichoderma)

A new commercial integrated biocontrol product against soil-borne diseases and phytophagous nematodes based on Trichoderma Phytopathogenic nematodes in general and root knot nematodes in particular can cause important damage to plants by damaging the root system which reduces the water uptake capacity of the plants resulting in reduced growth and even killing of the plants. Wounds on the roots made by the stylet during feeding of the nematodes are an easy entry place for fungi which lead to colonisation of the roots and increased damage. The classical way of nematode control, apart from the use of resistant cultivars if available, is soil fumigation or the use of systemic nematicides. These are all highly toxic substances for all living organisms and also for the environment. An extra problem is posed by methyl bromide, a very efficient chemical but in the framework of the Montreal protocol to be phased out shortly because of its ODP (Ozone Depleting Potential) value is too high. New and alternative control methods are necessary to prevent or limit the damage caused by phytophagous nematodes.

A lot of research concerning the use of alternative methods to control nematodes is on-going. However, a new development in this domain is found in the research of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in collaboration with the Volcani Center. It was shown for the first time that some isolates of Trichoderma, a fungus known as an antagonist against soil borne fungi, are also able to interact with root knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.). Scientia Terrae and his mother company Group De Ceuster developed a lot of experience on the use of Trichoderma as an antagonist against fungal diseases, production of inoculum and pesticide registration procedures. An initiative for a joint research project of the Volcani Center and Scientia Terrae was started and the Trichonema project (Marie Curie-EU) was developed. Experiments were carried out in Israel (in greenhouse or shade house) and in Belgium (in growth chamber) to cover different climatic conditions. In these experiments a test system was developed with Impatiens walleriana as the test plant, Meloidogyne incognita (Belgium) or M. javanica (Israel) as the pathogen and Trichoderma asperellum (T5) and T. hamatum (T382) as the antagonist. Initial experiments were carried out with fresh wheat bran Trichoderma preparations, giving promising results.

Root colonisation by the nematodes could be reduced significantly and the plant fresh weight was increasing. Also experiments with the dried wheat bran Trichoderma formulations were promising. Preliminary experiments were carried out also with free living nematodes (Pratylenchus penetrans, Rotylenchus robustus) with lettuce as test plant. Nematode number in the soil could be reduced and the plant fresh weight was increased after application of Trichoderma. In view of the development of a commercial product a conidial formulation with high CFU (colony forming units) number was prepared.

Storage experiments showed a stable shelf life of more than one year at 4C which is acceptable for distribution towards the end users. However the results obtained with this new formulation were disappointing. During the last project year experiments were carried out to investigate different ways to increase the efficiency but until now without success. The results with the conidial preparation are not encouraging for further efforts in registration of the product as a bio-pesticide under the EC directive 91/414, unless we can find a solution for the efficiency problem.

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