Fernando E. Vega, Mark S. Goettel, Meredith Blackwell, David Chandler, Mark A. Jackson, Siegfried Keller, Masanori Koike, Nguya K. Maniania, Arnulfo Monzón, Bonnie H. Ownley, Judith K. Pell, Drauzio E.N. Rangel, Helen E.Roy
Sustainable Perennial Crops Laboratory, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Building 001, BARC-West, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA.
An important mechanism for insect pest control should be the use of fungal entomopathogens. Even though these organisms have been studied for more than 100 y, their effective use in the field remains elusive. Recently, however, it has been discovered that many of these entomopathogenic fungi play additional roles in nature. They are endophytes, antagonists of plant pathogens, associates with the rhizosphere, and possibly even plant growth promoting agents. These findings indicate that the ecological role of these fungi in the environment is not fully understood and limits our ability to employ them successfully for pest management. In this paper, we review the recently discovered roles played by many entomopathogenic fungi and propose new research strategies focused on alternate uses for these fungi. It seems likely that these agents can be used in multiple roles in protecting plants from pests and diseases and at the same time promoting plant growth.