| Developing new strategies to control Botrytis cinerea and other fungal pathogens in Cannabis
Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, P.O. Box 12, Rehovot 76100, Israel
Hybrid varieties of Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Ruderalis and Cannabis Indica are used as drug crops. These crops produce large and dense flowers which are very attractive to Botrytis cinerea - the gray mold disease causal agent. B. cinerea is the most significant pathogen on Cannabis plants and its infection results in enormous economic losses due to yield damages. When Cannabis is grown in-doors under high humidity and in high density of large moisture-retaining female buds, B. cinerea can reach epidemic magnitudes and completely destroy a Cannabis crop within a week. Drug varieties are most susceptible during flowering near harvest time as growers cannot use any chemical fungicides due to consumers' health concerns. Thus, developing new strategies to control this pathogen is essential if we wish to secure Cannabis crops for the health of both consumers and the environment.
In my laboratory, we are focusing on various aspects of the plant's defence responses against the fungal plant-pathogen Botrytis cinerea. To cope with pathogen attack, plants have evolved a wide range of physical, molecular and biochemical defence mechanisms. We target to refine the multi-layer defence responses against B. cinerea by studying the molecular and biochemical interactions of B. cinerea with the plant's defence response.
Our research in the laboratory revealed diverse knowledge on B. cinerea – host interaction and plant induced resistance mechanisms against this pathogen. We also isolated a unique and efficient biocontrol agent that uses a complex mode of actions against B. cinerea including antibiosis and activation of the plant defence response. We aim to use these findings to enhance the defence response of Cannabis plants in order to control B. cinerea and other pathogens infecting this crop.
Keywords:Botrytis cinerea, plant immunity, pathogens, fungi, resistance.