Main content area

Myrothecium verrucaria – a potential biological control agent for the invasive ‘old world climbing fern’ (Lygodium microphyllum)

Clarke, Tainya C., Shetty, Kateel G., Jayachandran, Krishnaswamy, Norland, Michael R.
BioControl 2007 v.52 no.3 pp. 399-411
Lygodium microphyllum, Myrothecium verrucaria, Pinus elliottii, biological control, biological control agents, conidia, cost effectiveness, ecological invasion, ecosystems, ferns and fern allies, greenhouses, indigenous species, introduced plants, necrosis, pathogenicity, pesticide application, screening, soil fungi, weeds, Asia, Florida
One of the greatest threats to the native ecosystems in any part of the world is the invasion and permanent colonization of ecosystems by non-native species. Florida is no exception to this biological invasion, and is currently colonized by an extensive variety of exotic plant species. Originally imported from Asia over 30 years ago, Old World Climbing Fern Lygodium microphyllum (Cavanilles) R. Brown) has become one of the most invasive and destructive weeds in southern Florida. To date different effective control measures of its growth and spread have not been successful; fire and herbicide applications that are currently employed are neither cost effective nor environmentally friendly. In light of the highly delicate ecosystem that is being affected by L. microphyllum, we tested the soil fungus Myrothecium verrucaria (Albertini and Schwein) Ditmar: Fr. for its pathogenicity on the invasive fern. In greenhouse studies the effect of two conidial concentrations of M. verrucaria on L. microphyllum was investigated. Plants were spray inoculated with M. verrucaria which resulted in successful disease development with leaf necrosis symptoms. The higher conidial concentration (1 × 10⁸ ml⁻¹) produced a disease index of approximately 3 on a scale of 0 to 4, day 24 postinitial inoculation, demonstrating the efficacy of this fungus as a severe retardant of Lygodium growth. Preliminary screening of selected native plant species for susceptibility to M. verrucaria showed low disease indices after repeated spray inoculations; the highest index attained was 0.4 by Slash pine (Pinus elliottii).