Use of AMF and PGPR in substrate strawberry production
Strawberries are an economically important soft fruit with many health benefits in the UK, representing an expanding industry worth £220M per annum (ca. two thirds of total consumption). To eliminate the risk of Verticillium wilt in soil production and as well as to extend season, nearly 40% of strawberry is now produced in substrate (such as coir) under protection where irrigation and fertilizer input is well controlled. The main challenge in such a production system is to improve water and fertiliser use efficiency while maintaining or even increasing yield and quality. As a consequence of production under protection, powdery mildew becomes the number one disease, necessitating frequent interventions. Several parallel research studies have been undertaken at East Malling Research (EMR) to tackle this challenge: (1) breeding cultivars specifically for substrate, (2) increasing production efficiency through regulated deficit irrigation, and (3) predicting mildew development.
In collaborating with several academic and industrial partners, we investiaget whether application of AMF and PGPR (plant growth promoting rhizobacteria) products in commercial substrates will result in increased resource use efficiency, fruit quality, and tolerance to powdery mildew over different combinations of cultivars. Furthermore, we shall use the transcriptomic approach to study how strawberry plants respond to AMF colonisation.