Plant Growth Promotion and Biocontrol of Leaf Blight Caused by Nigrospora sphaerica on Passion Fruit by Endophytic Bacillus subtilis Strain GUCC4

Junrong Wang, Shun Qin, Ruidong Fan, Qiang Peng, Xiaojing Hu, Yang Liu, Zengliang Liu, Ivan Baccelli, Quirico Migheli, Gabriele Berg, Xiaoyulong Chen*, Tomislav Cernava*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Passion fruit (Passiflora edulis Sims) is widely cultivated in tropic and sub-tropic regions for the production of fruit, flowers, cosmetics, and for pharmacological applications. Its high economic, nutritional, and medical values elicit the market demand, and the growing areas are rapidly increasing. Leaf blight caused by Nigrospora sphaerica is a new and emerging disease of passion fruit in Guizhou, in southwest China, where the unique karst mountainous landscape and climate conditions are considered potential areas of expansion for passion fruit production. Bacillus species are the most common biocontrol and plant-growth-promotion bacteria (PGPB) resources in agricultural systems. However, little is known about the endophytic existence of Bacillus spp. in the passion fruit phyllosphere as well as their potential as biocontrol agents and PGPB. In this study, 44 endophytic strains were isolated from 15 healthy passion fruit leaves, obtained from Guangxi province, China. Through purification and molecular identification, 42 of the isolates were ascribed to Bacillus species. Their inhibitory activity against N. sphaerica was tested in vitro. Eleven endophytic Bacillus spp. strains inhibited the pathogen by >65%. All of them produced biocontrol- and plant-growth-promotion-related metabolites, including indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), protease, cellulase, phosphatase, and solubilized phosphate. Furthermore, the plant growth promotion traits of the above 11 endophytic Bacillus strains were tested on passion fruit seedlings. One isolate, coded B. subtilis GUCC4, significantly increased passion fruit stem diameter, plant height, leaf length, leaf surface, fresh weight, and dry weight. In addition, B. subtilis GUCC4 reduced the proline content, which indicated its potential to positively regulate passion fruit biochemical properties and resulted in plant growth promotion effects. Finally, the biocontrol efficiencies of B. subtilis GUCC4 against N. sphaerica were determined in vivo under greenhouse conditions. Similarly to the fungicide mancozeb and to a commercial B. subtilis-based biofungicide, B. subtilis GUCC4 significantly reduced disease severity. These results suggest that B. subtilis GUCC4 has great potential as a biological control agent and as PGPB on passion fruit.
Original languageEnglish
Article number132
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Fungi
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • antagonisms
  • endophytic Bacillus
  • enzyme activity
  • passion fruit
  • plant growth promotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science

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