Since the discovery that entomopathogenic fungi can live inside plants as endophytes, researchers have been trying to understand how this affects mainly plants and herbivores. We studied how inoculation of Vicia faba L. (Fabales: Fabaceae) plants with Beauveria bassiana (Balsamo-Crivelli) Vuillemin (Ascomycota: Hypocreales) (strain GHA) either via the seeds or leaves influenced the nymph production of two successive generations of Aphis fabae Scopoli (Hemiptera: Aphididae). While we did not find any difference in nymph production for the first generation of aphids, second-generation aphids on both seed- and spray inoculated plants produced significantly higher numbers of nymphs than aphids on uninoculated plants. This emphasizes the importance of two (or multi-) generational experimentation. Beauveria bassiana was recovered from 26.0, 68.8 and 6.3% of respectively seed-, spray inoculated and control plants, thus, demonstrating its ability to live as an endophyte in V. faba. The confirmation that plants inoculated with entomopathogenic fungi can have a positive effect on pest insects makes careful consideration of these multi-trophic interactions imperative.
Inoculating plants with entomopathogenic fungi may influence plant nutrient uptake and growth, and herbivore performance. Knowledge is limited concerning the effects of this symbiosis on higher trophic levels. We examined how fungal treatment of faba bean seeds with the entomopathogenic fungus
influenced the choice-behavior and development of the aphid parasitoid
. We also sampled plant material for analysis of changes in expression of genes related to plant defense pathways. While parasitoids were compatible with plants inoculated with
initially (66 vs. 65% parasitization on inoculated and control plants, respectively; similar development times of parasitoids: 9.2 days), the emergence of adult parasitoids originating from aphids on fungus treated plants was significantly lower (67 vs. 76%, respectively). We also found that the defense response changed, similar to induced systemic resistance, when plants were treated with
, similarly to what has been found for other plant symbiotic microorganisms. These novel findings show that although the application of entomopathogenic fungi to plants can alter the plants’ defense against herbivores, it may also have an impact on beneficial insects, so their function and use should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
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