Trichoderma spp. as elicitors of wheat plant defense responses against Septoria tritici
Leaf blotch of wheat is a widespread and highly active disease that affects wheat production. In addition to the use of chemicals and proper cultivation methods, microbial antagonists are used to control plant pathogens. Trichoderma spp. stimulate a systemic induced response in plants. Therefore, the efficacy of Trichoderma spp. against wheat leaf blotch was evaluated under greenhouse conditions. The susceptible plants were sprayed with Septoria tritici conidiospores. In order to select an efficient method of pretreatment with Trichoderma spp., leaf spraying and seed coating with 14 isolates were tested in 2003 and 2004. The extent of leaf necrosis area and pycnidial coverage was estimated. Antagonism was assessed by the capacity of each Trichoderma spp. isolate to restrict the progress of leaf blotch, 21 days after inoculation. Of the two methods, seed coating was more efficacious against leaf blotch than leaf spraying. Amongst the 14 isolates tested, the isolate prepared from T. harzianum (Th5) produced the highest level of protection. None of the treatments caused changes in plant stem diameter or dry weight. Trichoderma spp. did not get into leaves while S. tritici was present, even in asymptomatic leaf extracts. In addition, the leaf apoplast antifungal proteolytic activity was measured in plants 7, 15, and 22 days after sowing. This antifungal action decreased in plants only inoculated with S. tritici, but increased in those grown from seeds coated with the T. harzianum (Th5) isolate. This increase conferred resistance to the susceptible wheat cultivar. The endogenous germin-like protease inhibitor coordinated the proteolytic action. These results suggest that T. harzianum stimulates a biochemical systemic induced response against leaf blotch.