Symbiotic and endophytic fungi as biocontrols against cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) phytopathogens

<div><p>ABSTRACT Cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) is a tropical tree, seriously affected by fungal diseases. To control several pathogens, biological methods are prescribed since they are friendly to the environment and easy to use. The main objective of this study was to assess the biocontrol effect of two native strains, Trichoderma viride and Botryosphaeria quercum, on phytopathogens such as Phytophthora palmivora and Moniliophtora roreri, causal agents of black pod and frosty pod rot diseases, respectively. In addition, biocontrolers were faced on potential mycotoxigenic fungi such as Aspergills flavus and Fusarium solani, which are very common on cocoa. The Bio-Control Index (BCI) was calculated to determine the in vitro biocontrol effect against the four phytopathogens. Results indicated that the best biocontrol agent of phytopathogens was B. quercum, showing BCI of 82.3%, 80.7%, 63.3% and 59.7% for each tested phytopathogen, respectively. Competition for substrate was the dominant biocontrol strategy. As to the origin of strains, those coming from the Department Norte de Santander and Santander showed the highest average inhibition percentage. This study provides an initial screening to the endophytic and antagonistic potential of fungi, specifically those capable of colonizing cocoa pods and soils. Thus, these strains can be used as an efficient biological control alternative against several known phytopathogens of cocoa in the field.</p></div>