A fungal solution to a fungal problem: applying fungal strains for the biocontrol of plant pathogenic fungi
|Anna Maria Persiani||Aggiungi Tutor di riferimento (Professore o Ricercatore afferente allo stesso Dipartimento del Proponente)|
World population is expected to grow reaching nearly 9.7 billion by 2050, requiring an increase by 70% in food production. However, every year plant diseases cause an estimated loss of 10-15% of the world's major crops. 70-80% of these diseases are caused by pathogenic fungi, which may also present an associated risk of mycotoxin contamination of processed food and feed. To control phytopathogenic fungi and fulfil crop yield requirements, agriculture for many decades has relied on synthetic agrochemicals including fungicides. However, this extensive use of pesticides has determined a gradual loss of protection efficiency and a continuous increase in applied dosage. This inappropriate and excessive use of antimicrobials led many pests to develop antimicrobial resistance, as exemplified by fungi insensitive to broad-spectrum fungicides, and determined heavy environmental pollution generating serious risks for human and animal health, due to their translocation along the food chain. Hence, it is necessary to search for environmentally friendly alternatives to improve crop yield and resilience, and to meet legislation requirements limiting the use of agrochemicals. In this context, the application of biological control agents and their secondary metabolites represent a promising option to support the achievement of food security, enhancing yield and quality of agricultural products, without further compromising ecosystems¿ health. Fungi, thanks to a great adaptability and ability to produce secondary metabolites, hydrolytic enzymes, and proteins, represent very promising candidate for biocontrol applications. Therefore, the main aim of the project is to investigate, through a set of in vitro tests, biocontrol activity of fungal strains and fungal derived bioactive compounds, with the purpose to individuate strains suitable for biotechnological applications and widening the known pool of fungal strain suitable for biotechnological application in this field.