Basis for the biocontrol of Pythium by fluorescent pseudomonads
The aim of this thesis was to gain an understanding of the molecular and ecological basis for the biological control of Pythium by fluorescent pseudomonads. A fluorescent pseudomonad biocontrol agent (BCA), Pseudomonas fluorescens 54/96, identified as a potential candidate for commercial development, was analysed together with transposon induced mutants in a variety of assays for anti-fungal activity (Chapter 2). It was revealed that 54/96 had a fungistatic effect generated by a number of different mechanisms, which included nutrient competition and antibiosis. The synecology of this organism with Pythium was then compared to a similar organism (P. fluorescens SBW25) demonstrating a similar degree of anti-fungal activity (Chapter 3). The similarity of the population dynamics of these two strains prompted an examination of the genetic basis for the anti-fungal activity of the second strain, with the intention of comparing with 54/96 (Chapter 4). Again this revealed a multifactorial mode of action of SBW25 against Pythium. Whilst some mutants with reduced anti-fungal activity were deficient in growth on seed exudate others were unaffected, but the mechanisms appeared to be different to those utilized by 54/96. The comparison of strains was expanded to a larger collection of pseudomonad BCAs which were contrasted by a number of phenotypic and genotypic methods (Chapter 5). Various markers were identified which showed commonality within the different classes of BCA, the most useful of which was cyclopropanated fatty acids. These may prove to be a useful marker when screening for new pseudomonad BCAs. It was concluded that a greater understanding of the molecular, physiological and ecological basis of anti-fungal activity of bacterial will lead to the development of biocontrol strategies with improved efficacy.