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Microorganisms. 2020 Mar 18;8(3). pii: E428. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms8030428.

Yeasts and Bacterial Consortia from Kefir Grains Are Effective Biocontrol Agents of Postharvest Diseases of Fruits.

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Department of Postharvest Science, Agricultural Research Organization (ARO), The Volcani Center, Rishon LeZion 7505101, Israel.
Área Microbiología, Departamento de Biociencias, Facultad de Química, Universidad de la República, Gral Flores 2124, Montevideo 11800, Uruguay.
Appalachian Fruit Research Station, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Wiltshire Road, Kearneysville, WV 25443, USA.


Fungal pathogens in fruits and vegetables cause significant losses during handling, transportation, and storage. Biological control with microbial antagonists replacing the use of chemical fungicides is a major approach in postharvest disease control, and several products based on single antagonists have been developed but have limitations related to reduced and inconsistent performance under commercial conditions. One possible approach to enhance the biocontrol efficacy is to broaden the spectrum of the antagonistic action by employing compatible microbial consortia. Here, we explore commercial kefir grains, a natural probiotic microbial consortium, by culture-dependent and metagenomic approaches and observed a rich diversity of co-existing yeasts and bacterial population. We report effective inhibition of the postharvest pathogen Penicillium expansum on apple by using the grains in its fresh commercial and milk-activated forms. We observed few candidate bacteria and yeasts from the kefir grains that grew together over successive enrichment cycles, and these mixed fermentation cultures showed enhanced biocontrol activities as compared to the fresh commercial or milk-activated grains. We also report several individual species of bacteria and yeasts with biocontrol activities against Penicillium rots on apple and grapefruit. These species with antagonistic properties could be further exploited to develop a synthetic consortium to achieve enhanced antagonistic effects against a wide range of postharvest pathogens.


Penicillium; bacteria; biological control; kefir; postharvest; yeasts

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