, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp 137-151

Endophytic fungi harbored in Cannabis sativa L.: diversity and potential as biocontrol agents against host plant-specific phytopathogens

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Abstract

The objective of the present work was isolation, phylogenetic characterization, and assessment of biocontrol potential of endophytic fungi harbored in various tissues (leaves, twigs, and apical and lateral buds) of the medicinal plant, Cannabis sativa L. A total of 30 different fungal endophytes were isolated from all the plant tissues which were authenticated by molecular identification based on rDNA ITS sequence analysis (ITS1, 5.8S and ITS2 regions). The Menhinick’s index revealed that the buds were immensely rich in fungal species, and Camargo’s index showed the highest tissue-specific fungal dominance for the twigs. The most dominant species was Penicillium copticola that could be isolated from the twigs, leaves, and apical and lateral buds. A detailed calculation of Fisher’s log series index, Shannon diversity index, Simpson’s index, Simpson’s diversity index, and Margalef’s richness revealed moderate overall biodiversity of C. sativa endophytes distributed among its tissues. The fungal endophytes were challenged by two host phytopathogens, Botrytis cinerea and Trichothecium roseum, devising a dual culture antagonistic assay on five different media. We observed 11 distinct types of pathogen inhibition encompassing a variable degree of antagonism (%) on changing the media. This revealed the potential chemodiversity of the isolated fungal endophytes not only as promising resources of biocontrol agents against the known and emerging phytopathogens of Cannabis plants, but also as sustainable resources of biologically active and defensive secondary metabolites.