Microbial interactions and biocontrol in the rhizosphere

J Exp Bot. 2001 Mar;52(Spec Issue):487-511. doi: 10.1093/jexbot/52.suppl_1.487.


The loss of organic material from the roots provides the energy for the development of active microbial populations in the rhizosphere around the root. Generally, saproptrophs or biotrophs such as mycorrhizal fungi grow in the rhizosphere in response to this carbon loss, but plant pathogens may also develop and infect a susceptible host, resulting in disease. This review examines the microbial interactions that can take place in the rhizosphere and that are involved in biological disease control. The interactions of bacteria used as biocontrol agents of bacterial and fungal plant pathogens, and fungi used as biocontrol agents of protozoan, bacterial and fungal plant pathogens are considered. Whenever possible, modes of action involved in each type of interaction are assessed with particular emphasis on antibiosis, competition, parasitism, and induced resistance. The significance of plant growth promotion and rhizosphere competence in biocontrol is also considered. Multiple microbial interactions involving bacteria and fungi in the rhizosphere are shown to provide enhanced biocontrol in many cases in comparison with biocontrol agents used singly. The extreme complexity of interactions that can occur in the rhizosphere is highlighted and some potential areas for future research in this area are discussed briefly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Ecosystem
  • Fungi / metabolism
  • Fungi / pathogenicity
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Pest Control, Biological*
  • Plant Diseases / microbiology*
  • Plant Diseases / parasitology*
  • Plant Roots / metabolism
  • Plant Roots / microbiology*
  • Plant Roots / parasitology*


  • Iron