Understanding why effective fungicides against individual soilborne pathogens are ineffective with soilborne pathogen complexes

Ming Pei You, Jay Ram Lamichhane, Jean Noël Aubertot, Martin J. Barbetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Annual forage legumes across southern Australia continue to be devastated by soilborne diseases. Nine fungicide seed treatments (thiram, metalaxyl, iprodione, phosphonic acid, propamocarb, fluquinconazole, difenoconazole + metalaxyl, ipconazole + metalaxyl, sedaxane + difenoconazole + metalaxyl) and four foliar fungicide treatments (phosphonic acid, metalaxyl, propamocarb, iprodione) were tested on four subterranean clover cultivars against individual oomycete soilborne pathogens Pythium irregulare, Aphanomyces trifolii, and Phytophthora clandestina and the fungal pathogen Rhizoctonia solani. Best treatments were then further tested across southern Australia in 2 years of field experiments. Under controlled conditions, seed treatment with thiram was best against damping-off caused by P. irregulare across the four cultivars (Woogenellup, Riverina, Seaton Park, Meteora), while metalaxyl was the most effective for maximizing root and shoot weights. Against A. trifolii, metalaxyl, iprodione, difenoconazole + metalaxyl, ipconazole + metalaxyl, and sedaxane + difenoconazole + metalaxyl, all reduced damping-off; sedaxane + difenoconazole + metalaxyl, fluquinconazole, and ipconazole + metalaxyl all reduced lateral root disease across two or more cultivars; while iprodione, thiram, and sedaxane + difenoconazole + metalaxyl increased shoot dry weight. Against P. clandestina, metalaxyl was the most effective in reducing tap and lateral root rot followed by ipconazole + metalaxyl or phosphonic acid for tap and lateral rot, respectively. Against R. solani, there were no effects of fungicides. For P. irregulare and P. clandestina, there were strong seed fungicide × cultivar interactions (P < 0.001). Under controlled conditions for foliar fungicide spray treatments, phosphonic acid was best at preventing productivity losses from A. trifolii, but was ineffective against P. clandestina, P. irregulare, or R. solani. Overall, controlled environment studies highlighted strong potential for utilizing seed treatments against individual pathogens to ensure seedling emergence and early survival, with seed and foliar sprays enhancing productivity by reducing seedling damping-off and root disease from individual pathogens. However, in field experiments over 2 years across southern Australia against naturally occurring soilborne pathogen complexes involving these same pathogens, only rarely did fungicide seed treatments or foliar sprays tested show any benefit. It is evident that currently available fungicide seed and/or foliar spray treatment options do not offer effective field mitigation of damping-off and root disease on annual forage legumes that underpin livestock production across southern Australia. The main reason for this failure relates to the unpredictable and ever-changing soilborne pathogen complexes involved, highlighting a need to now refocus away from fungicide options, particularly toward developing and deploying new host tolerances, but also in deploying appropriate cultural control options.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)904-920
Number of pages17
JournalPlant Disease
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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