The influence of spore concentration on the ability of a Trichoderma consortium to colonize the Passiflora caerulea phyllosphere was evaluated by determining the effects of foliar treatments with two spore concentrations, in two repeated treatments, on the morphological, physiological, and ultrastructural characteristics, and on the yield and quality of P. caerulea. The studied crop quality features were related to its nutraceutical use: the accumulation of polyphenols and flavonoids, antioxidant activity, and effects on mouse fibroblast L929 cells. The Trichoderma consortium consisted of two strains, T. asperellum T36b and T. harzianum Td50b, and the concentrations used were 106 colony forming units (cfu)/mL and 108 cfu/mL. As a reference treatment, a commercial product that was based on herbs and algal extracts was used. As compared to the negative control, the treatment with the Trichoderma consortium at 108 cfu/mL concentration determines the accumulation of higher level of polyphenols and flavonoids and increased antioxidant activity. This enhancement of P. caerulea quality characteristics after treatment with the higher concentration of Trichoderma consortium was associated with larger leaves, increased number and size of chloroplasts, improved plant physiology characteristics, and an increased yield. The treatment with high concentration of Trichoderma consortium spores promotes phyllosphere colonization and benefits both crop yield and quality.
Keywords: antioxidant activity; cells culture biocompatibility; chlorophyll fluorescence; crop yield and quality; leaf area; leaf ultrastructure; phyllosphere colonization; polyphenols and flavonoids; spores concentration; stomatal conductance.