Additive fungal interactions drive biocontrol of Fusarium wilt disease

Tao, Chengyuan; Wang, Zhe; Liu, Shanshan; Lv, Nana; Deng, Xuhui; Xiong, Wu; Shen, Zongzhuan; Zhang, Nan; Geisen, S.A.; Li, Rong; Shen, Qirong; Kowalchuk, George A.


Host-associated fungi can help protect plants from pathogens, and empirical evidence suggest that such microorganisms can be manipulated by introducing probiotic to increase disease suppression. However, we still generally lack the mechanistic knowledge of what determines the success of probiotic application, hampering the development of reliable disease suppression strategies.
We conducted a 3-season consecutive microcosm experiment in which we amended banana Fusarium wilt disease-conducive soil with Trichoderma-amended biofertilizer or lacking this inoculum. High-throughput sequencing was complemented with cultivation-based methods to follow changes in fungal microbiome and explore potential links with plant health.
Trichoderma application increased banana biomass by decreasing disease incidence by up to 72%, and this effect was attributed to changes in fungal microbiome, including the reduction in Fusarium oxysporum density and enrichment of pathogen-suppressing fungi (Humicola). These changes were accompanied by an expansion in microbial carbon resource utilization potential, features that contribute to disease suppression. We further demonstrated the disease suppression actions of Trichoderma-Humicola consortia, and results suggest niche overlap with pathogen and induction of plants systemic resistance may be mechanisms driving the observed biocontrol effects.
Together, we demonstrate that fungal inoculants can modify the composition and functioning of the resident soil fungal microbiome to suppress soil-borne disease.