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Phytopathology. 2013 Feb;103(2):108-16. doi: 10.1094/PHYTO-07-12-0167-R.

Combined use of two biocontrol agents with different biocontrol mechanisms most likely results in less than expected efficacy in controlling foliar pathogens under fluctuating conditions: a modeling study.

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State Key Laboratory of Crop Stress Biology in Arid Areas and College of Plant Protection, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China.


Effective use of biocontrol agents (BCAs) is a potentially important component of sustainable agriculture; recently, there has been a trend for combined use of several BCAs, with an expectation of synergistic interactions among them. A previous numerical study suggested that, under homogenous conditions in which two BCAs occupied the same host tissue as the pathogen, combined use of two BCAs with different biocontrol mechanisms resulted, in most cases, in efficacies similar to using the more efficacious one alone; this result is consistent with published experimental results. The present study investigates whether combined use of a mycoparasitic and a competitive BCA leads to greater efficacy than that expected when the model is modified to allow for fluctuating temperature regimes and the effects of temperature on the pathogen and BCAs. Within the range of parameter values considered, combined use of two BCAs is shown to be less effective than that expected under the assumption of Bliss independence, and to result in a level of efficacy similar to that achieved by the more efficacious component used alone, indicating antagonistic interactions between the two BCAs. Nevertheless, combined use of two BCAs resulted in a slightly longer delay in epidemic development than did individual use of BCAs. Stochastic variability in simulated hourly temperatures did not result in a high level of variability in efficacy among replicates; nevertheless, the among-replicate variability appeared to be greater for the combined use of BCAs than for individual BCAs used alone. In contrast, there were greater effects of varying BCA-temperature relationships and application time (reflected in the temperature profile) on efficacy, suggesting the importance of characterizing the relationship between BCA activity and environmental conditions in future research.

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