Fungus protects fruit trees

Article taken from the South East Farmer

Trials of a fungus based product on fruit orchards have shown that it can protect trees from disease and stress.

Agrovista, the agronomy and crop protection products business, has run a small “look and see” trial and larger trials in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire and in Kent in the years up to 2013 to see how TRIANUM-G would work on apple orchards.

Paul Bennett, Agrovista’s fruit team leader, said that Koppert, the product’s Dutch manufacturer, had originally said it was mainly used on ornamentals and vegetables.  “We asked them about fruit, and the reply was that not much had been done,” Mr Bennett said.  “No one else has done the level of work which we have done on fruit.”

In the first “look and see” trial, Mr Bennett said there was a very dry start to the season and the apple trees were stressed.  “The leaves looked sad and dull and tended to curl upwards at the ends.” Subsequently, Koppert offered to analyse roots from the treated and untreated plots to ensure the Trichoderma fungus was growing there.  “They found that the fungus was active and growing round the roots,” Mr Bennett said.  On a walk through the orchard, it was possible to see the treated trees because of the numbers of extension shoots and leaf clusters.

The product has to be used on new orchard plantings and cannot be applied retrospectively because of the obvious difficulties in digging round larger trees to find the roots.  “In the original trial, we applied TRIANUM-G in granular form and scattered it at the bottom of the planting hole,” Mr Bennett said.  “It is important that the material has direct contact with the roots so that it can grow.”  The fungus can prevent the root system becoming infected with soil borne pathogens and so improve the uptake of water and nutrients which reduces stress.

“We have seen a more positive effect in years when the trees are stressed, particularly when it is more dry or wet than in an ideal growing season,” Mr Bennett explained.  “You do not see a massive effect on the canopy in an ideal season, which of course we don’t have very often.  Once the fungus is established, it will be there forever and in subsequent years the trees which have been treated will get on much better than those which have not.”  In comparison to a tree’s overall cost, the cost of the treatment is minimal, said Mr Bennett, and about the same as a rabbit guard.

TRIANUM-G is available from Agrovista now, but because it is a live product it is not kept in stock.  “We can discuss it with customers well in advance to suit the requirements of their planting plans,” Mr Bennett added.

Koppert’s literature says that a properly functioning root system is essential for a well growing plant with the best possible yield.  Extensive research has show that the fungus Trichoderma harzianum T-22 (TRIANUM) can help root systems of many different kinds of plants to perform better.  The mycelia covering forms a physical barrier against attack from pathogens such as Pythium and Fusarium.

Trichoderma also absorbs the exudates from the roots; consequently, pathogens are given no chance to develop themselves due to a lack of nutrients.  In turn, the exudates of Trichoderma are able to break down the cell walls of pathogens.

“A root system that is less subject to attack is better able to develop,” Koppert says.  “It goes without saying that a better developed root system supports the overground growth processes better thanks to the increased uptake of nutrients and greater resistance against water stress.  This difference has been shown convincingly in many practical trials.


04 December 2013

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