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Advances in Agriculture
Volume 2014, Article ID 542703, 11 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/542703
Review Article

Ecological Complexity and the Success of Fungal Biological Control Agents

1Soil & Land Resources Division, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA
2Department of Plant, Soil, & Entomological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA

Received 5 February 2014; Revised 29 April 2014; Accepted 30 April 2014; Published 1 June 2014

Academic Editor: Tibor Janda

Copyright © 2014 Guy R. Knudsen and Louise-Marie C. Dandurand. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Fungal biological control agents against plant pathogens, especially those in soil, operate within physically, biologically, and spatially complex systems by means of a variety of trophic and nontrophic interspecific interactions. However, the biocontrol agents themselves are also subject to the same types of interactions, which may reduce or in some cases enhance their efficacy against target plant pathogens. Characterization of these ecologically complex systems is challenging, but a number of tools are available to help unravel this complexity. Several of these tools are described here, including the use of molecular biology to generate biocontrol agents with useful marker genes and then to quantify these agents in natural systems, epifluorescence and confocal laser scanning microscopy to observe their presence and activity in situ, and spatial statistics and computer simulation modeling to evaluate and predict these activities in heterogeneous soil habitats.