The entomopathogenic fungi Metarhizium brunneum and Beauveria bassiana promote systemic immunity and confer resistance to a broad range of pests and pathogens in tomato.
Trichoderma spp. can activate the plant immune system through ISR, priming molecular mechanisms of defense against pathogens. Entomopathogenic fungi (EPF) can infect a wide range of arthropod pests and play an important role in reducing pests' population. Here, we investigated the mechanisms by which EPF control plant diseases. We tested two well studied EPF, Metarhizium brunneum isolate Mb7 and Beauveria bassiana as the commercial product Velifer, for their ability to induce systemic immunity and disease resistance against several fungal and bacterial phytopathogens, and their ability to promote plant growth. We compared the activity of these EPF to an established biocontrol agent, Trichoderma harzianum T39, a known inducer of systemic plant immunity and broad disease resistance. The three fungal agents were effective against several fungal and bacterial plant pathogens and arthropod pests. Our results indicate that EPF induce systemic plant immunity and disease resistance by activating the plant host defense machinery, as evidenced by increases in reactive oxygen species production and defense gene expression, and that EPF promote plant growth. EPF should be considered as control means for Tuta absoluta. We demonstrate that, with some exceptions, biocontrol in tomato can be equally potent by the tested EPF and T. harzianum T39, against both insect pests and plant pathogens. Taken together, our findings suggest that EPF may find use in broad-spectrum pest and disease management and as plant growth promoting agents.