Posted: October 19, 2020

Common soil fungus could be an ally in the fight against corn pests.

Photo by Mary Barbercheck

Photo by Mary Barbercheck

Corn producers could enlist a common soil fungus as a powerful partner to suppress pests and promote plant growth, according to researchers in the college who suggest that promoting the fungus could be an especially valuable strategy for organic growers struggling with insect control.

These conclusions, published in Biological Control, were reached after a study of fungus-insect-plant interactions in greenhouse and laboratory settings. A team led by Mary Barbercheck, professor of entomology, inoculated corn seed with spores of Metarhizium robertsii fungus and subsequently evaluated corn plants for fungal colonization of leaves and roots. They also measured plant height, chlorophyll content, and aboveground biomass, as well as relative growth rate of black cutworm.

--Jeff Mulhollem