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Title:
SUPERIOR ANTAGONISTIC TRICHODERMA SPECIES FOR PRESERVING PLANT MATERIAL AND WOOD PRODUCTS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/011007
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention is directed to live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723, a composition of these further comprising at least one physiologically acceptable carrier compound, and a method for treating soil and/or plant material.

Inventors:
SCHWARZE, Francis (Untere Boehlstrasse 7, 9052 Niederteufen, 9052, CH)
RIBERA-REGAL, Javier (Moosstrasse 45, 9014 St. Gallen, 9014, CH)
Application Number:
EP2017/066571
Publication Date:
January 18, 2018
Filing Date:
July 04, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
EMPA EIDGENÖSSISCHE MATERIALPRÜFUNGS- UND FORSCHUNGSANSTALT (Ueberlandstrasse 129, 8600 Dübendorf ZH, 8600, CH)
International Classes:
A01N63/04; C12R1/885
Domestic Patent References:
WO2012140304A22012-10-18
WO2011161404A12011-12-29
Foreign References:
GB2239800A1991-07-17
US4713342A1987-12-15
US20140363871A12014-12-11
EP0387640A11990-09-19
JP2012095570A2012-05-24
GB2239800A1991-07-17
Other References:
SIEBER T.: "Pyrenochaeta ligni-putridi sp. nov., a new coelomycete associated with butt rot of Picea abies in Switzerland", MYCOLOGICAL RESEARCH, vol. 99, no. 3, 1995, pages 274 - 276, XP025961852, DOI: doi:10.1016/S0953-7562(09)80897-6
LORANG, J.M.; TUORI, R.P.; MARTINEZ, J.P.; SAWYER. T.L.; REDMAN, R.S.; ROLLINS, J.A.; WOLPERT, T.J.; JOHNSON, K.B.; RODRIGUEZ, R.J: "Green fluorescent protein is lighting up fungal biology", APPL. ENVIRON. MICROBIOL., vol. 67, 2001, pages 1987 - 1994
DE GROOT, M.J.A.; BUNDOCK, P.; HOOYKAAS, P.J.J.; BEIJERSBERGEN, A.G.M.: "Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation of filamentous fungi", NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY, vol. 16, 1998, pages 839 - 842, XP002144853, DOI: doi:10.1038/nbt0998-839
EUROPEAN STANDARD EN 113, 1996
MURPHY RJ; LEVY JF: "Production of copper oxalate by some copper tolerant fungi", TRANSACTIONS OF THE BRITISH MYCOLOGICAL SOCIETY, vol. 81, 1983, pages 165 - 168
SUTTER HP; JONES EBG; WALCHLI 0: "Occurrence of crystalline hyphal sheath in Poria placenta (Fr.) Cke", JOURNAL OF INSTITUTE OF WOOD SCIENCE, vol. 10, 1984, pages 19 - 23
GREEN F; CLAUSEN CA: "Copper tolerance of brown-rot fungi: time course of oxalic acid production", INTERNATIONAL BIODETERIORATION & BIODEGRADATION, vol. 51, 2003, pages 145 - 149
WOODWARD, B. M.; R. C. DE GROOT: "Tolerance of Wolfiporia cocos isolates to copper in agar media", FOR. PROD. J., vol. 49, 1999, pages 87 - 94
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KASCHE, André (Resirain 1, 8125 Zollikerberg, 8125, CH)
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Claims:
Claims

Live Trichoderma selected from the group consisting of (i) Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 as deposited under accession number CBS140589 and (ii) Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723 as deposited under accession number CBS 141192.

Spores of the live Trichoderma of claim 1.

A composition comprising

(i) live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 as deposited under accession number

CBS140589 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723 as deposited under accession number CBS 141192, and

(ii) at least one physiologically acceptable carrier compound.

The composition according to claim 3, wherein the at least one physiologically acceptable carrier compound is selected from the group consisting of

(i) char, preferably char selected from the group consisting of biochar, activated

biochar, char of deciduous trees, preferably trees selected from the group consisting of beech trees, ash trees, maple trees, oak trees, sallow trees, whitethorn trees, hazelnut trees, and alder trees; more preferably char prepared at more than 200 °C, preferably more than 300 °C, more preferably more than 400 °C, most preferably between 400 and 700 °C;

(ii) maize granules or corn granules,

(iii) compost, preferably vegetable compost, more preferably leaves compost,

(iv) flower soil,

(v) talcum powder,

(vi) vermiculite,

(vii) wood dust or wood chips, preferably wood dust or wood chips of hardwoods, more preferably wood dust or wood chips from deciduous trees, preferably from trees selected from the group consisting of Picea abies, Abies alba, Fagus sylvatica, Fraxinus excelsior and Acer pseudoplatanus; and (viii) mixtures of any of (i) to (vii).

The composition according to any of claims 3 or 4, wherein the composition comprises at least 104, preferably at least 105, most preferably 106-108 spores of live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723 per gram of the at least one carrier compound.

The composition according to any one of claims 3 to 5, wherein the composition optionally further comprises a compound selected from the group consisting of a binder, preferably gelatine or alginate; sugar, preferably glucose; water; a nitrogen source, preferably urea, more preferably amounting to about 3.5% nitrogen in the total composition; a

phosphorous source, preferably P2O5, more preferably amounting to about 1% P2O5 in the total composition; a potassium source, preferably K2O, more preferably amounting to about 1% K2O in the total composition; fungal nutrients, preferably mineral supplements, more preferably mineral supplements at concentrations of 1% by weight or less, most preferably Zn2+, Mn2+, Cu2+, and Fe2+; and a pH-stabilizer, preferably H3PO4 and/or NaHC03.

The composition according to any one of claims 3 to 6, wherein the composition comprises

(i) live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723;

(ii) maize granules; and

(iii) biochar, preferably biochar of woods selected from the group consisting of beech trees, maple trees and ash trees, preferably prepared at temperatures between 450 °C and 500 °C,

wherein about one gram of (ii) is inoculated with 104-108 spores of live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723, and wherein the weight ratio of components (ii) to (iii) is preferably at least about 1:10, more preferably about 5:10, most preferably from 1:10 to 1:1.

Use of live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723 according to claims 1 or 2 or a composition according to any of claims 3 to 7 for treating soil and/or plant material against

(a) plant and/or wood rot, and/or (b) infestation of copper-resistant fungi in soil and/or plant material.

The use according to claim 8, wherein the plant material is selected from the group consisting of crop plants, preferably tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, strawberries, cacao plants, oil palms, vines, wheat, tea plants and coffee plants; wood and wood products, preferably selected from the group consisting of trees, timber, wood poles, wood palisades and wood groundwork.

10. The use according to any of claims 8 or 9, wherein the plant material is a copper and/or chromium-treated plant material, preferably a wood pole or wood groundwork.

A method for treating soil and/or plant material against (a) plant and/or wood rot, and/or (b) infestation of copper-resistant fungi in soil and/or plant material, comprising the steps of

(i) providing live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723 according to claim 1, spores according to claim 2 and/or a composition according to any of claims 3 to 7; and

(ii) applying the fungus, spores and/or composition of (i) to soil and/or plant material.

The method according to claim 11, wherein the fungus, spores and/or composition of (i) are applied to soil in the vicinity of plant material of interest, preferably at a distance of within 1 m, more preferably of at most 2, 5, 10 or 15 m, most preferably of at most 20 m

The method according to any of claims 11 or 12, wherein the plant material is selected from the group consisting of crop plants, preferably tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, strawberries, cacao plants, oil palms, vines, wheat, tea plants and coffee plants; wood a wood products, preferably selected from the group consisting of trees, timber, wood poles, wood palisades and wood groundwork.

14. The method according to any of claims 11 to 13, wherein the plant material is a copper and/or chromium-treated plant material, preferably a wood pole or wood groundwork. The method according to any of claims 11 to 14, wherein the composition comprises at least one physiologically acceptable carrier compound selected from the group consisting of

(i) char, preferably char selected from the group consisting of biochar, activated

biochar, char of deciduous trees, preferably trees selected from the group consisting of beech trees, ash trees, maple trees, oak trees, sallow trees, whitethorn trees, hazelnut trees, and alder trees; more preferably char prepared at more than 200 °C, preferably more than 300 °C, more preferably more than 400 °C, most preferably between 400 and 700 °C;

(ii) maize granules or corn granules,

(iii) compost, preferably vegetable compost, more preferably leaves compost,

(iv) flower soil,

(v) talcum powder,

(vi) vermiculite,

(vii) wood dust or wood chips, preferably wood dust or wood chips of hardwoods, more preferably wood dust or wood chips from deciduous trees, preferably from trees selected from the group consisting of Picea abies, Abies alba, Fagus sylvatica, Fraxinus excelsior and Acer pseudoplatanus; and

(viii) mixtures of any of (i) to (vii).

The method according to any of claims 11 to 15 for preventing and/or treating an infestation of copper-resistant fungi in soil and/or plant material.

Description:
SUPERIOR ANTAGONISTIC TRICHODERMA SPECIES FOR PRESERVING

PLANT MATERIAL AND WOOD PRODUCTS

The present invention is directed to live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723, a composition of these further comprising at least one physiologically acceptable carrier compound, and a method for treating soil and/or plant material.

Background

Trichoderma is a genus of fungi that is present in all soils, where they are the most prevalent culturable fungi. Many species in this genus can be characterized as opportunistic avirulent plant symbionts. Several strains of Trichoderma have been developed as biocontrol agents against fungal diseases of plants. The various mechanisms include antibiosis, parasitism, inducing host-plant resistance, and competition. Most biocontrol agents are from the species T. harzianum, T. viride and T. hamatum.

Copper is a commonly used cheap and effective heavy metal fungicide for the prevention and treatment of fungal rot in wood products, in particular wood products that have direct soil contact such a wooden poles and wooden groundings. Over decades copper-tolerant fungi have emerged which also produce oxalic acid, a potent copper chelator that will increase copper leaching from the wood product. Toxic chromium is frequently added to copper fungicides in order to counteract copper leaching by binding copper to wood fibers.

JP2012/095570 A teaches live Trichoderma immobilized on alkali charcoal in the ground to delay fungal wood decay.

GB2239800 A discloses the use of specific Trichoderma species, in particular T. harzianum, for treating or preventing Serpula lacrymans infections in wood (dry rot).

The objective underlying the present invention is the provision of improved means and methods for plant and wood product preservation.

In a first aspect, the above objective is solved by live Trichoderma selected from the group consisting of (i) Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 as deposited under accession number CBS140589 and (ii) Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723 as deposited under accession number CBS 141192.

It was surprisingly found that Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 and Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723 bear an exceptionally high lethal effect of 100% on seemingly all fungi responsible for wood rot, in particular on copper-tolerant fungi (see Example 1 below). Other fungi and other Trichoderma spp. do not show this broad spectrum of highly lethal effects on fungi and/or copper-tolerant fungi responsible for wood rot. Therefore, the Trichoderma of the present invention represent improved means for plant and wood product preservation.

Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 was deposited under accession number CBS140589 and

Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723 was deposited under accession number CBS 141192 at the Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures (CBS) in the Netherlands by MycoSolutions GmbH, Untere Bohlstrasse 7, 9052 Niederteufen, Switzerland, on the same terms as those laid down in the Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the purpose of Patent Procedure. MycoSolutions GmbH has given its unreserved and irrevocable consent to the deposited material being made available to the public as evidenced by the Statement of Authorization and Consent filed with the European Patent Office.

According to the present invention, the terms "live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720" and "Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723" encompass all components of Trichoderma EMPA 720/723 that are or may lead to living and reproducing Trichoderma 720/732 fungi, in particular mycelium, spores, conidia, conidiophores, phialides, synanamorphs, chlamydospores and hyphae.

In a preferred embodiment, the present invention is directed to spores of the live

Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723.

In a second aspect, the present invention relates to a composition comprising

(i) live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 as deposited under accession number CBS140589 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723 as deposited under accession number CBS 141192, and

(ii) at least one physiologically acceptable carrier compound.

According to the present invention, a physiologically acceptable carrier compound for use in the present invention is any non-toxic compound/composition for carrying the inventive Trichoderma, e.g. for adding volume, improving handling and administration to soil or wood products, etc. which carrier compound preferably supports viability or even improves growth of the inventive fungi and preferably also supports but does not prevent the fungicidal action on fungi responsible for wood rot. Furthermore, the carrier compound is preferably bio-compatible, i.e. does preferably not have toxic effects on the environment and is preferably made from organic materials. Additionally, the acceptable carrier compound of the present invention can preferably support, more preferably synergistically support the fungicidal activity and/or plant and wood product-preserving activity of the inventive Trichoderma.

In a preferred embodiment, the composition of the present invention is a composition, wherein the at least one physiologically acceptable carrier compound is selected from the group consisting of (i) char, preferably char selected from the group consisting of biochar, activated biochar, char of deciduous trees, preferably trees selected from the group consisting of beech trees, ash trees, maple trees, oak trees, sallow trees, whitethorn trees, hazelnut trees, and alder trees; more preferably char prepared at more than 200 °C, preferably more than 300 °C, more preferably more than 400 °C, most preferably between 400 and 700 °C; (ii) maize granules or corn granules, (iii) compost, preferably vegetable compost, more preferably leaves compost, (iv) flower soil, (v) talcum powder, (vi) vermiculite, (vii) wood dust or wood chips, preferably wood dust or wood chips of hardwoods, more preferably wood dust or wood chips from deciduous trees, preferably from trees selected from the group consisting of Picea abies, Abies alba, Fagus sylvatica, Fraxinus excelsior and Acer pseudoplatanus; and (viii) mixtures of any of (i) to (vii).

Char or biochar for use in the present invention is preferably characterized in that it improves the chemical-physical soil features, for example water holding capacity, nutrient availability and results in long-term improvement of soil fertility. Also, the carbonization process can cause a long-term cleavage of harmful CO2. Similar to clay, biochar preferably has a huge surface area, to which a large amount of polar (water) or charged molecules can be adsorbed. Due to its high porosity, biochar can preferably absorb five times the amount of its own weight of water and dissolved nutrients can be taken up. This property is called the adsorption capacity (AK) of biochar, which depends on the one hand on the pyrolyzed biomass and on the other hand on the pyrolysis temperature. Biochar can be advantageously used in dry locations (for example on urban sites) with weakly to moderately heavy soils. For these locations, biochar can act as a water and nutrient buffer and in the long run improve soil fertility and increase humus formation. In addition to its use as nutrient supplier, biochar can be used as a habitat for microorganisms (see Examples 1 and 2). Because of the above properties, biochar in combination with the inventive fungi can effectively and synergistically reduce the inoculum of wood-destroying fungi, preferably of copper tolerant fungi in the soil and indirectly prolong the life of trees, and service life of wood, preferably of wood that has been impregnated with copper-based wood preservatives.

In a further preferred embodiment, the composition of the present invention comprises at least 10 4 , preferably at least 10 5 , most preferably 10 6 -10 8 spores of live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723 per gram of the at least one carrier compound.

In a further preferred embodiment, the composition of the present invention optionally further comprises a compound selected from the group consisting of a binder, preferably gelatine or alginate; sugar, preferably glucose; water; a nitrogen source, preferably urea, more preferably amounting to about 3.5% by weight nitrogen in the total composition; a phosphorous source, preferably P2O5, more preferably amounting to about 1% by weight P2O5 in the total composition; a potassium source, preferably K2O, more preferably amounting to about 1% by weight K2O in the total composition; fungal nutrients, preferably mineral supplements, more preferably mineral supplements at concentrations of 1% by weight or less, most preferably Zn 2+ , Mn 2+ , Cu 2+ , and Fe 2+ ; and a pH-stabilizer, preferably H3PO4 and/or NaHC0 3 .

In addition to the carrier compound, the composition of the present invention may optionally be supplemented with compounds that improve the physical properties of the composition or that facilitate the handling of the composition. For example, binders can reduce an inventive composition's tendency to raise dust, which would be undesired during

manufacturing, packaging or application. Also, the inventive composition may optionally comprise nutrients for the fungi of the present invention to assist their growth and/or proliferation, for example nitrogen, phosphorous and/or potassium sources. Furthermore, the inventive composition optionally comprises further fungal growth factors such as sugars or salts. Additionally, the inventive composition can optionally comprise agents that control, modify or stabilize the pH value of the composition, preferably to ensure that the inventive fungi are granted viable conditions for growth and/or proliferation.

In a further preferred embodiment, the composition of the present invention comprises (i) live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723; (ii) maize granules; and (iii) biochar, preferably biochar of woods selected from the group consisting of beech trees, maple trees and ash trees, preferably prepared at temperatures between 450 °C and 500 °C, wherein about one gram of (ii) is inoculated with 10 4 -10 8 spores of live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723, and wherein the weight ratio of components (ii) to (iii) is preferably at least about 1:10, more preferably about 5:10, most preferably from 1:10 to 1:1.

In a third aspect, the present invention is directed to a use of live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723 or a composition according to the present invention for treating soil and/or plant material against (a) plant and/or wood rot, and/or (b) infestation of copper-resistant fungi in soil and/or plant material.

Preferred dosages of the inventive composition are about 1 g of carrier compound per litre or m 2 of surface to be treated against wood-rot, and/or about 1 kg of carrier compound per m 3 of volume to be treated against wood-rot. However, the skilled person is well aware that the dosage of the composition will also depend on the gravity of the fungi infection, the susceptibility of the treated soil and/or plant material to the infectious fungi, whether or not the soil and/ or plant material was pre-treated with other protective agents and local environmental conditions, for example precipitation, dryness, wind, etc.

In a preferred embodiment, the use according to the present invention is directed to plant material selected from the group consisting of crop plants, preferably tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, strawberries, cacao plants, oil palms, vines, wheat, tea plants and coffee plants; wood and wood products, preferably selected from the group consisting of trees, timber, wood poles, wood palisades and wood groundwork.

The composition for use according to the present invention is especially beneficial for use in organic farming. Because the use of the present composition preferably does not involve any synthetic chemicals or potentially harmful agents such as synthetic fungicides or heavy metals such as copper or chromium, plants can be protected organically against undesired fungi using natural products only.

In a further preferred embodiment, the use according to the present invention is directed to copper and/or chromium-treated plant material, preferably a wood pole or wood

groundwork.

It has been surprisingly found that the inventive composition is exceptionally effective in protecting plant material against fungal infections that was pre-treated with copper and/or chromium-comprising agents and is therefore surprisingly effective against copper-tolerant fungi (see Example 3 below).

In many cases, fungi have become copper-tolerant and preserving with copper-comprising agents is not effective. Furthermore, copper may leak into the environment not only due to natural diffusion, but also because copper-tolerant fungi express copper-chelating oxalic acid at elevated amounts, which acid increases the leaching of copper from the preserved material into the environment. The leached copper concentrations were always higher for chromium-free wood preservatives (for example Wolmanit ® CX-8 (BASF, Germany) and lmpralit ® -KDS (Rutgers Organics, Germany) than for the chromium-containing wood preservatives (for example CC = chromium and copper-containing preservatives and CCB = chromium, copper and boron-containing preservatives) because chromium binds copper chemically to the wood fiber. However, chromium is even more toxic than copper if it leaches into the environment. Therefore, the use of chromium-containing preservatives is not desirable from an environmental point of view and may be restricted or prohibited. First manufacturers of chromium-based wood preservatives for wood impregnation have started not to use chromium in their formulations. But the increased use of chromium-free wood preservatives will also result in an increase of copper-leaching from wood exposed to the environment.

It was surprisingly found that the inventive Trichoderma have a negative effect on the oxalic acid production of copper-tolerant fungi (see Example 4 below) and can thus reduce the amount of copper that leaches from the preserved material. Furthermore, the inventive composition surprisingly showed that biochar further increases the anti-leaching effect of the composition by safely absorbing copper before it further diffuses into the environment (see Example 5 below).

Therefore, it is also preferred that the inventive composition is used together with or in addition to copper-containing preservatives in order to (i) further increase the anti-fungal efficacy of the copper-containing preservative, (ii) treat (undetected) copper tolerant fungi and to (iii) prevent the leaching of the copper from the preserved material into the environment.

In a fourth aspect, the present invention is directed to a method for treating soil and/or plant material against (a) plant and/or wood rot, and/or (b) infestation of copper-resistant fungi in soil and/or plant material, comprising the steps of (i) providing live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723, spores and/or a composition according to the present invention; and (ii) applying the fungus, spores and/or composition of (i) to soil and/or plant material.

In a preferred embodiment, the fungus, spores and/or composition of the inventive method are applied to soil in the vicinity of plant material of interest, preferably at a distance of within 1 m, more preferably of at most 2, 5, 10 or 15 m, most preferably of at most 20 m.

In a further preferred embodiment, the plant material for use in the inventive method is selected from the group consisting of crop plants, preferably tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, strawberries, cacao plants, oil palms, vines, wheat, tea plants and coffee plants; wood and wood products, preferably selected from the group consisting of trees, timber, wood poles, wood palisades and wood groundwork. In another preferred embodiment, the plant material for use in the inventive method is a copper and/or chromium-treated plant material, preferably a wood pole or wood groundwork.

In a further preferred embodiment, the composition of the inventive method comprises at least one physiologically acceptable carrier compound selected from the group consisting of (i) char, preferably char selected from the group consisting of biochar, activated biochar, char of deciduous trees, preferably trees selected from the group consisting of beech trees, ash trees, maple trees, oak trees, sallow trees, whitethorn trees, hazelnut trees, and alder trees; more preferably char prepared at more than 200 °C, preferably more than 300 °C, more preferably more than 400 °C, most preferably between 400 and 700 °C, (ii) maize granules or corn granules, (iii) compost, preferably vegetable compost, more preferably leaves compost; (iv) flower soil, (v) talcum powder, (vi) vermiculite, (vii) wood dust or wood chips, preferably wood dust or wood chips of hardwoods, more preferably wood dust or wood chips from deciduous trees, preferably from trees selected from the group consisting of Picea abies, Abies alba, Fagus sylvativca, Fraxinus excelsior and Acer pseudoplatanus; and (viii) mixtures of any of (i) to (vii).

In a further preferred embodiment, the method of the present invention is a method for preventing and/or treating an infestation of copper-resistant fungi in soil and/or plant material.

The invention has been described generally and also with emphasis upon preferred embodiments and will be further illustrated by the following examples, none of which should be construed to limit the scope of the invention beyond the scope of the appended claims.

Figures

Fig. 1 shows untreated biochar (A) and biochar incubated for two weeks with T. harzianum EMPA 720 (B). Fig. 1C is a micrograph taken with a light microscope showing biochar incubated for two weeks with T. harzianum EMPA 720. The dark structures (arrows) consist of biochar which has been colonised by filamentous cells (hyphae) of T. harzianum EMPA 720. Fig. ID is an image of the same section shown in Fig. 1C taken with a fluorescence microscope. The spores and hyphae (white arrows) of the BFP (blue fluorescent mutant) of T. harzianum EMPA 720 appear bright blue (light grey on Fig. 1).

Fig. 2A shows boxes with impregnated mini wood stakes (wood preservative and applied concentrations are denoted for the respective stakes) after 36 weeks incubation. The following preservatives were investigated CX-8: Wolmanit ® CX-8 (BASF, Germany); KDS: lmpralit ® -KDS (Rutgers Organics, Germany); CK: lmpralit ® -CK (Rutgers Organics, Germany); CKB: lmpralit ® -CKB (Rutgers Organics, Germany). Mini wood stakes were not pre-treated with T. harzianum EMPA 720. Mass losses are also discernable in Fig. 3. Fig. 2B shows boxes with impregnated mini wood stakes (wood preservative and applied concentrations are denoted for the respective stakes) after 36 weeks incubation. Mini wood stakes were pre-treated with spore suspensions of T. harzianum EMPA 720 before insertion into the box. Mass losses are also discernable in Fig. 4.

Fig. 3 depicts mass losses by the copper-tolerant fungus Rhodonia placenta in impregnated mini wood stakes after 9 months incubation without pre-treatment with T. harzianum EMPA 720.

Fig. 4 depicts mass losses by the copper-tolerant fungus Rhodonia placenta in impregnated mini wood stakes after 9 months incubation and a pre-treatment with spores suspensions of T. harzianum EMPA 720.

Examples

Example 1: Dual culture tests - Antifungal properties of Trichoderma spp.

In order to determine in vitro suppression of Trichoderma species against the wood- destroying fungi, dual culture tests with different combination (n = 6) of Trichoderma species and copper tolerant fungi (Table 1 below) were performed. The agar disc method was carried out on a common growth media 2% MEA. Mycelial discs (5 mm) were removed from 1-week-old MEA cultures of each of the five wood-decay fungi and placed equidistantly at the margin of Petri dishes (90 mm) containing 2% MEA and 30% Biochar (Carbon Gold, UK). These were incubated at 25(±1) °C and 70% relative humidity for 3-4 days. Next, discs (5 mm) were removed from the margins of actively growing 1-week-old cultures of the Trichoderma species and placed at opposite sides of the dish, and incubated in the dark at 25(±1) °C and 70% relative humidity for 4 weeks. Petri dishes without Trichoderma were used as the control. The ability of

Trichoderma species to eliminate the wood decay fungi (lethal effect) during the four week incubation period was evaluated by aseptically transferring 5-mm discs from test plates to MEA with 2 mL thiabendazole (2-(40-thiazolyl)- benz-imidazole; Merck, Darmstadt, Germany; 0.46 mg dissolved in lactic acid). Thiabendazole-MEA suppresses the growth of Trichoderma species but allows growth of wood-decay fungi (Sieber T. (1995) Pyrenochaeta ligni-putridi sp. nov., a new coelomycete associated with butt rot of Picea abies in Switzerland. Mycological Research 99(3):274-276). The lethal effect of Trichodermo species was expressed as a percentage of the wood-decay fungi which were eliminated (Table 1 below). The studies showed that Trichodermo horzionum EMPA 720 showed a 100% lethal effect against all copper tolerant fungi tested.Table 1.

Classification of the lethal effect of different Trichodermo species against different copper tolera nt fungi on malt extract amended with 30 % biochar.

Cu-tolerant % Lethal effect

fungi T. T. T,

Γ. atroviride T. atroviride

harzianum harzianum koningiopsis

(685) (722)

(720) (721) (723)

G. sepiarium (592) 100 100 80 60 80

S. brinkmannii

20 100 40 40 20

(417)

A. serialis (364) 85 100 100 95 80

A. serialis (481) 100 100 85 80 100

A. serialis (716) 100 100 100 100 100

S, himantioides

65 100 55 60 65

(731)

A. serialis (165) 100 100 100 100 100

S. himantioides

80 100 80 40 20

(581)

A. serialis (049) 100 100 85 80 100

S. himantioides

70 100 55 65 80

(643)

F. vaillantii (332) 90 100 85 70 85

F. vaillantii (774) 80 100 60 65 75

A. serialis (150) 100 100 100 100 100

M lepideus (428) 100 100 100 100 100

Example 2: Growth and sporulation rates of Trichodermo spp. on biochar

For the determination of fungal growth, biochar was inoculated with 10 8 / ml spores of

Trichodermo horzionum EMPA 720 (n = 3). To determine the influence of different substrates on the number of spores produced, two biochar substrates were used. (1) Maize powder and biochar (ratio 1:10) (Merck (Germany), Carbon Gold, UK) and (2) pure biochar (Carbon Gold, UK) without a carbon source. After two weeks incubation at 25 °C and a relative humidity of 65% the substrates were mixed and 1 gram biochar was dissolved in 1 liter of H2O and the number of spores of T. horzionum EMPA 720 were measured in a Neubauer chamber. The studies showed that in the mixture of biochar and maize powder 492,000 spores / ml and in the substrate of pure biochar 217,500 spores / ml could be detected. To determine the growth of T. horzionum EMPA 720 in the biochar, a BFP (bluish fluorescent protein) mutant of the fungus was used. For this purpose, pCAMB (CAMBIA, Canberra, Australia) binary vector containing a hygromycin resistance gene and the GFP (Green fluorescent protein) gene from pCT74 (Lorang, J.M., Tuori, R.P., Martinez, J . P., Sawyer. T.L, Redman, R.S., Rollins, J.A., Wolpert, T.J ., Johnson, K.B., Rodriguez, R.J., Dickman, M.B., Ciuefftti, L.M. (2001) Green fluorescent protein is lighting up fungal biology. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 67, 1987-1994.) was constructed. The resulting vector (pCAMBgfp) was introduced into Agrobacterium tumefaciens strain AGL-1 and transformed into Trichoderma-GFP as described by De Groot, M.J.A., Bundock, P., Hooykaas, P.J.J., Beijersbergen, A.G.M. (1998) Agrobacterium tumefaciens-mediated transformation of filamentous fungi. Nature Biotechnology. 16:839-842.

Detection of hyphal growth and spore formation by of T. harzianum EMPA 720 in the biochar was performed using samples taken from the inoculated biochar under the fluorescence microscope. Untreated biochar served as a control (Fig. 1A). The studies showed that after just two weeks, the biochar was colonized by the filamentous cells of T. harzianum EMPA 720 and large quantities of spores were formed (Fig. IB).

Example 3: Determination of fungicidal efficacy of wood preservatives after 36 weeks of exposure to copper-tolerant fungi according to ENV 807

The performance of the artificial interaction tests was carried out in a modified form according to the European Standard EN 113 (1996). For this purpose mini-wood stakes with dimensions of 8 x 2 x 2 cm were excised from Picea abies sapwood and treated with different wood preservatives (see Table 2 below).

Table 2. List of used wood preservatives

Wood preservatives Abreviation

CC (3.8 kg/m3) 0.6% CC

CC (21.3 kg/m3) 2.4% CC

CCB (8.1 kg/m3) 1.1% CCB

CCB (40.3 kg/m3) 5.0% CCB

KDS (8.3 kg/m3) 1.1% KDS

KDS (26.1kg/m3) 3.4% KDS

CX-8 (15.1 kg/m3) 2.1% CX-8

CX-8 (43.3 kg/m3) 5.8% CX-8

The abbreviations in Table 2 and in the present description correspond to the following chemicals. CC: chromium and copper-containing preservative; CCB: chromium, cooper and boron-containing preservative; CX-8: Wolmanit ® CX-8 (BASF, Germany); KDS: lmpralit ® -KDS (Rutgers Organics, Germany).

For assessing the preventive effect of T. harzianum EMPA 720 in wood, that has been colonized by copper-tolerant a special substrate for long-term experiments was produced. The substrate used for inoculation of the wood stakes with copper-tolerant fungi consisted of 30% biochar, 68% vermiculite and 2% wood dust from Picea abies wood (Carbon Gold, UK) and 50% w/v distilled H2O. The substrate was sterilized for 20 min at a temperature of 120 °C in an autoclave and then inoculated with sawdust that had been incubated with the copper tolerant fungus R. placenta at 28 °C/95% relative humidity for four weeks. After incubation for three months the mini wood stakes were placed for 36 weeks at 28 °C and 95% relative humidity into boxes with the substrate enriched with the copper-tolerant fungus (Fig. 2A). In a second box impregnated mini wood stakes were dipped in aqueous spore suspensions of 10 7 CFU/ml and then placed into the substrate enriched with copper-tolerant fungi for 36 weeks (Fig. 2B). Based on the determination of the mass loss, the preventive effect of T. harzianum EMPA 720 against copper-tolerant fungi was determined.

Fig. 2A shows that after 36 weeks recorded mass losses in the CCB impregnated mini wood stakes were the lowest (0.58% and 1.02%). The highest mass loss was recorded in the untreated control samples. The CC impregnated mini wood stakes also showed very high mass losses (55.06% and 65.24%). At high concentrations, the chromium-free wood preservatives (CX-8 and KDS) showed some protection. At low concentrations, the mass loss was between 25.71-52.15% (Fig. 3). The results with the copper tolerant fungus Rhodonia placenta confirmed numerous field observations that the potentially toxic CCB wood preservatives that have been used in the past are to some extent efficient against copper-tolerant fungi. The CC wood preservatives are highly susceptible against copper-tolerant fungi without the co-biocide boron. The positive effect of T. harzianum EMPA 720 against the copper tolerant fungus R. placenta was very clear and impressive (Fig. 4). Regardless of the wood preservative applied and their concentrations the recorded weight losses from the impregnated mini wood were always significantly lower after treatment with T. harzianum EMPA 720 (Fig. 2B). On average, the recorded weight losses of impregnated mini wooden stakes were in the range of 0.82% -3.51%, respectively. Even the untreated control showed a minor mass loss of 1.71%. Thus, the preventive action of T.

harzianum EMPA 720 against the copper tolerant fungus R. placenta was very impressive.

Example 4: Reduction of the oxalic acid production of copper tolerant fungi by

Trichoderma harzianum 720 Several authors describe that the production of oxalic acid and the presence of the wood copper oxalate crystals are an important feature of copper tolerant fungi during the

detoxification of copper (Murphy RJ, Levy JF 1983. Production of copper oxalate by some copper tolerant fungi. Transactions of the British Mycological Society 81: 165-168; Sutter HP, Jones EBG, Walchli 0. 1984. Occurrence of crystalline hyphal sheath in Poria placenta (Fr.) Cke. Journal of Institute of Wood Science 10: 19-23; Green F, Clausen CA 2003. Copper tolerance of brown-rot fungi: time course of oxalic acid production International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation 51: 145-149; Woodward, B. M., and R. C. De Groot. 1999. Tolerance of Wolfiporia cocos isolates to copper in agar media. For. Prod. J. 49:87-94.)

For the investigation of the influence of Trichoderma species on the oxalic acid production of copper tolerant fungi, five different copper-tolerant fungi (Antrodia serialis, Fibroporia vaillantii, Gloeophyllum sepiarium, Rhodonia placenta and Serpula himantioides) and

Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 were cultivated in 250 ml Erlenmeyer flask containing 120 ml of a liquid media with 1% malt extract for 20 days and shaken at 25 °C and 65% relative humidity at 150 rpm. The suspension was then filtered and centrifuged at 12,000 rpm for 1 min. The supernatant obtained was used to measure the oxalic acid production of the copper-tolerant fungi by means of a colorimetric assay kit (Sigma Aldrich, Switzerland). The same experiment as described above was repeated, but after 20 days, the liquid media with the copper-tolerant fungi was inoculated with 0.1 ml of T. harzianum EMPA 720. The Erlenmeyer flasks were incubated as described above for a further 20 days and then measured oxalic acid production (Table 2 below). The studies showed that the oxalic acid production (Table 2 below) of all copper-tolerant fungi was significantly reduced in the liquid medium by the addition of T. harzianum EMPA 720.

Table 3. Oxalic acid production (in mg /I) in a fluid media after 8 weeks incubation (n=3).

Fungal spp. control (mg/l) Dual culture (mg/l)

A. serialis 11.41 ± 1.75 7.60 ± 1.09

S. himatioides 19.82 ± 0.53 8.52 ± 0.85

F. vaillantii 18.69 ± 1.00 9.40 ± 0.50

R. placenta 10.63 ± 0.34 1.15 ± 0.37

G. sepirarium 20.12 ± 0.26 11.54 ± 0.30

T. harzianum 8.06 ± 0.20

720

Example 5: Leaching of copper from impregnated wood and its adsorption by biochar Three wood samples of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) with dimensions of 2 x 2 x 8 cm were treated with CC, CCB, CX-8 and KDS wood preservatives (Table 3 below). After a drying and fixation process for two weeks, the samples were placed into an Erienmeyer flask with 500 ml of distilled water and 2.5 g biochar (Carbon Gold, UK). Erienmeyer flask with impregnated wood samples and without biochar served as controls. The Erienmeyer flasks with the wood samples were shaken for 10 days at 25 °C and 65% relative humidity at 150 rpm. The suspension was then centrifuged at 4000 rpm for 30 min and the supernatant separated from the biochar. This was then mixed with 2% HNO3 and the copper concentration was measured by ICP-OES

(Inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy, Perkin Elmer Optima 3000, Perkin Elmer corp., United States). In addition, the copper absorption of biochar was analyzed. For this purpose, 1 g biochar (Carbon Gold, UK) was added to 3 ml HNO3 und 1 ml H 2 O 2 . After leaching in a microwave, the copper content by ICP-OES was determined. Suspensions without biochar served as controls.

The studies showed that even 1 gram of biochar absorbs different amounts of copper from wood during leaching exposure. Thus the copper concentration in the supernatant was reduced in the presence of biochar for all wood preservatives.

The leached copper concentrations were always higher for the chromium-free wood preservatives (CX-8 and KDS) than for the wood preservatives with chromium (CC and CCB). Leaching losses for chromium-containing wood preservatives are generally low since chromium binds copper chemically to the wood fiber.

Table 4. ICP measurements of copper from impregnated wood after 10 days leaching exposure.

Cu-leaching Cu-leaching

Treatment Cu in supernatant (mg/l) Cu in supernatant (mg/l)

Without biochar With 1 gram biochar

Control (only biochar) - 0.01 ± 0.00

Control (only H 2 O) - 0.01 ± 0.00

Control (untreated wood) 0.01 ± 0.00 0.00 ± 0.00

CC (21.3 kg/m 3 ) 17.6 ± 0.00 2.4 ± 0.00

CCB (40.3 kg/m 3 ) 28.7 ± 0.00 0.8 ± 0.00

CX-8 (43.3 kg/m 3 ) 140.0 ± 0.00 104 ± 0.00

KDS (26.1 kg/m 3 ) 52.5 ± 0.00 47 ± 0.000 Summary

The present invention is directed to live Trichoderma harzianum EMPA 720 or live Trichoderma koningiopsis EMPA 723, a composition of these further comprising at least one physiologically acceptable carrier compound, and a method for treating soil and/or plant material.

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