Two strains of the fungus Verticillium lecanii (A. Zimmermann) Viégas were studied as potential biocontrol agents for root-knot nematode (Meloidogyne incognita (Kofoid & White) Chitwood) on cantaloupe (Cucumis melo L.). For the study, pots were filled with soil that had been inoculated with M. incognita (inoculum was applied at two levels: 1000 and 5000 eggs/pot). Each fungus strain was applied individually by pouring an aqueous suspension (made from a wettable granule formulation) into the inoculated soil. Controls received water only. One cantaloupe seedling was then transplanted into each pot. Plants were grown for 55 days in the greenhouse, and then harvested and assessed for root and shoot growth and for nematode egg production. In pots inoculated with 1000 eggs/plant, neither fungus strain affected nematode egg numbers. At the 5000 eggs/plant inoculum level, both strains of the fungus suppressed egg numbers (counts were 28% and 31% less than water controls). Neither strain of V. lecanii affected the number of eggs embedded in root galls; the fungus suppressed nematode population numbers overall solely by affecting the number of eggs located outside of root tissues. Both fungus strains were also autoclaved and then applied to soil, to test for effects of nonviable fungus. In pots inoculated with 5000 eggs, application of one autoclaved strain resulted in a 35% suppression in egg numbers after 55 days, suggesting that the fungus produced a heat-stable substance deleterious to the nematode.
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