Growth Enhancement of shrunken-2 (sh2) Sweet Corn by Trichoderma harzianum 1295-22: Effect of Environmental Stress

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science
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  • 1 Department of Horticultural Sciences, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell University, Geneva, NY 14456

Sweet corn (Zea mays L.) varieties carrying the sh2 gene are in high demand, but such varieties have poor stress tolerance, especially during plant establishment. Trichoderma harzianum Rifai strain 1295-22 is a biocontrol fungus developed to provide season-long colonization of crop roots. It has the potential to reduce root rot and increase root growth. In the absence of detectable disease, colonization by Trichoderma increased root and shoot growth by an average of 66%. The enhancement was not uniform among the plants. Low- and intermediate-vigor plants were larger in the presence of Trichoderma, but high-vigor plants were not further enhanced by the fungus. Seeds that were subjected to oxidative stress with 0.05% NaOCI had much-reduced vigor; subsequent treatment with Trichoderma fully restored vigor. This result indicates that the damage caused by hypochlorite is specifically repaired by Trichoderma. Treatment of imbibed but unemerged seeds with cold (5/10 °C night/day) for varying periods reduced subsequent growth. Plants with Trichoderma-colonized roots were 70% larger at all durations of cold treatment. The absence of interation indicates the growth reduction due to cold and the growth enhancement due to Trichoderma are by different mechanisms. Allelopathic reduction in root growth by rye was mimicked by applying benzoxazolinone to the soil. Trichoderma-colonized roots grew faster, but the characteristic shortening of the radicle still occurred. There was no interaction between Trichoderma and allelopathy, indicating that these two treatments affect growth by independent mechanisms. The different ways that growth was enhanced by Trichoderma lead us to propose that this fungus acts, in part, by reversing injurious oxidation of lipids and membrane proteins. Root growth is markedly enhanced by colonization with Trichoderma harzianum. This enhancement can restore some stress-induced growth reduction and may directly reverse oxidative injury.

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