Table4.DOCX

Peat based growing media are not ecologically sustainable and often fail to support biological control. Miscanthus straw was (1) tested to partially replace peat; and (2) pre-colonized with a Trichoderma strain to increase the biological control capacity of the growing media. In two strawberry pot trials (denoted as experiment I & II), extruded and non-extruded miscanthus straw, with or without pre-colonization with T. harzianum T22, was used to partially (20% v/v) replace peat. We tested the performance of each mixture by monitoring strawberry plant development, nutrient content in the leaves and growing media, sensitivity of the fruit to the fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea, rhizosphere community and strawberry defense responses. N immobilization by miscanthus straw reduced strawberry growth and yield in experiment II but not in I. The pre-colonization of the straw with Trichoderma increased the post-harvest disease suppressiveness against B. cinerea and changed the rhizosphere fungal microbiome in both experiments. In addition, defense-related genes were induced in experiment II. The use of miscanthus straw in growing media will reduce the demand for peat and close resource loops. Successful pre-colonization of this straw with biological control fungi will optimize crop cultivation, requiring fewer pesticide applications, which will benefit the environment and human health.