Multifunctional entomopathogenic fungi for sustainable protected cultivation
Abstract: Microbial control of a wide variety of protected crop pests with entomopathogenic
ascomycetes such Beauveria, Metarhizium, Isaria and Akanthomyces is gaining more
popularity among farmers under a world regulative scenario that aims at the progressive
reduction of chemical pesticides. These fungi have a unique mode of action among
entomopathogenic microorganisms. Unlike bacteria and viruses, they do not need to be
ingested; rather, they have contact action and they invade their hosts directly through the cuticle. However, they are several challenges that must be addressed to provide for entomopathogenic fungi commercial success and grower adoption, with emphasis on exploiting their role as valuable multipurpose plant beneficial microorganism. Indeed, the associations of these fungi with the plants as endophytes or rhizosphere competent microorganism can give rise to different strategies of crop protection, but also of plant production, unthinkable until recently. Evidence is hereby given on the potential of entomopathogenic fungi as direct and indirect biocontrol agents, on their compatible multitrophic interactions, but also on enhancing plant growth and inducing immunity and resistance to other biotic and abiotic stresses, which are useful multifunctional properties for pest control and crop production. On the overall, entomopathogenic ascomycetes arise as multipurpose, plant-beneficial microorganisms for sustainable protected cultivation.