Endophytic Efects of Beauveria bassiana on Corn (Zea mays) and Its Herbivore, Rachiplusia nu (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)
Entomopathogenic fungi are widely recognized as agents of biological control worldwide. Their use in agriculture for the regulation of pest populations is a promising alternative to conventional insecticides. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that entomopathogenic fungi fulfill an additional role in plants as growth promoters. The purpose of this investigation was to assess the growth and yield of corn plants colonized with Beauveria bassiana and its effect on the lepidopteran pest Rachiplusia nu. Effects of the fungus on plant growth, crop yield, and vertical transmission were evaluated in the field. Feeding preferences of R. nu larvae were assessed in the laboratory using a “choice test”. Corn plants inoculated with B. bassiana showed an increase in height, number of leaves, grain weight, yield, and percentage of seed germination compared to control plants. Consumption of B. bassiana-colonized corn plants by R. nu larvae was reduced compared to feeding levels observed on non-inoculated plants. This study showed that endophytic B. bassiana can provide multiple benefits to Zea mays and can play an important role in future integrated pest management programs.