A fungus grown on bagasse can save bamboo from another fungus
EVEN as several fungal species act as significant plant pathogens, many have been found beneficial in controlling plant diseases. Take for example the fungus Trichoderma. This fungus is a common biological control agent and is useful in controlling diseases, particularly the white rot disease in bamboo.
However, growing these fungi in large quantities entails use of expensive chemicals. Forever on the lookout for cheaper alternatives, N S K Harsh of Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, realized over a glass of sugarcane juice, that bagasse could be one.
Bagasse is what remains after cane stalks are crushed to extract juice. It is rich in sugars and supports rapid fungal growth. Using bagasse as the substrate, Harsh cultured two species of the fungus Trichoderma: T pseudokoningii and T harzianum.
The fungi causing the white rot disease, infest depots where harvested bamboo is stored. This leads to 25 per cent loss of stored bamboo every year. When bagasse with Trichoderma growing on it, is applied to bamboo, these decay fungi are killed. The decay fungi are usually controlled by spraying the bamboo with fungicides.
The chemicals stain the wood, rendering the bamboo unsuitable for anything other than the pulp and paper industry. There, too, it has to be treated further to remove the stains caused by the fungicides. But by treating the bamboo with bagasse- Trichoderma, the use of chemicals can be avoided completely, Harsh found.
Harsh grew Trichoderma on dried and powdered bagasse. Within 15 days the fungus colonized the bagasse. Before spraying it on bamboo, he mixed it with water. For every gram of bagasse- Trichoderma, a litre of water was added.