Effects of culture media, temperature, pH, and light on growth, sporulation, germination, and bioherbicidal efficacy of Phoma exigua, a potential biological control agent for salal (Gaultheria shallon).
In order to evaluate the potential use of Phoma exigua isolate PFC 2705 (PFC2705) as a biological control agent for salal (Gaultheria shallon), the effect of cultural and environmental parameters on growth, conidia production, and pathogenicity of P. exigua were characterized in studies conducted under laboratory and greenhouse conditions. Within a range of 5-30°C, the optimum growth and germination temperature range was 20-25°C. The effect of pH on mycelial growth and conidial germination was not significant from pH 5 to 10. Fluorescent light significantly enhanced sporulation of the fungus on most agar media tested, yet was not necessary for growth. The type of culture media significantly affected mycelium growth, sporulation, and conidia germination. Age of mycelia used as inoculum affected the disease severity on salal. PFC2705 suppressed the growth of mature salal plant by inciting lesions on leaves, branch tips, and axillary buds and caused 56% death of the total biomass above ground. Characteristics such as easy inoculum production, wide range of growth environments, and high infectivity on salal increased the potential of P. exigua as a biological control agent for management of salal.