Biocontrol as a key component to manage brown rot diseases on cherry

October 2017 – September 2021

Sophia Bellamy

After completing a BSc in Biological Science at the University of Exeter, Sophia worked for five years in fundraising for a health charity. In 2017 she completed a masters in applied plant science at the University of Greenwich, graduating with distinction.

Brown rot, caused by Monilinia species, is one of the most important diseases in stone fruits worldwide. In Europe, the disease is primarily caused by M. laxa whilst in North America, Asia and Australasia the main causative agent of brown rot is M. fructicola. However, M. fructicola, classified as a quarantine plant pathogen in Europe, has recently been reported in several European countries. A third species, M. fructigena also causes brown rot disease but infects fruit only via wounds unlike M. laxa and M. fructicola which can infect flowers and both healthy and wounded fruit.

Cherry fruit infected with M. laxa

This project aims to understand microbial ecology that underpins the use of microbial BCAs to manage on stone fruit; to develop new biocontrol-based strategies for managing and to evaluate such strategies in small-scale and commercial-scale studies.

Experiments are being carried out to answer the following specific questions for each BCA:

Mummified cherry fruit with brown rot
  1. To what extent do BCAs survive in winter on the surface of mummified fruit remaining on the tree or on the ground?
  2. Does increasing the interacting time between BCAs and M. laxa (mummified fruit or canker) lead to increased biocontrol efficacy?
  3. Are BCAs able to reduce sporulation of M. laxa cankers as well as mummified fruit?
  4. Could BCAs significantly reduce blossom wilt?
  5. Could BCAs establish on flower tissues, and then colonise surfaces of developing fruit to reduce infection by M. laxa?
  6. Does a successful control of blossom wilt, together with a reduction in the primary inoculum, significantly reduce infection of fruit near harvest
  7. Could BCAs be used together to improve biocontrol efficacy?
  8. Are these BCAs compatible with commercial fungicides used in stone fruit?

Research progress

Annual report 2017-2018