This study was conducted in the scope of developing a sustainable effective approach against subterranean termite pests using entomopathogenic and endophytic fungus-based biopesticides. Termites, Odontotermes spp. workers, were tested for their susceptibility to 15 entomopathogenic fungal isolates through the direct spraying of conidia suspensions at 1 × 108 conidia/mL. In general, all the isolates screened were pathogenic, with 100% mortality 4-7 days post-inoculation. However, the most virulent isolates were Metarhizium brunneum Cb15-III; the M. anisopliae isolates ICIPE 30 and ICIPE 60; Hypocrea lixii F3ST1; and the Beauveria bassiana isolates ICIPE 279, ICIPE 706 and ICIPE 662. These isolates were further tested for their endophytic colonization of cocoa seedlings using seed soaking, soil drench and foliar spray at 1 × 108 conidia/mL. The colonization of the plant tissues by the fungi was determined using a culture-based technique. Only the B. bassiana isolates ICIPE 706 and ICIPE 279, and H. lixii F3ST1 colonized the cocoa seedlings, with varied colonization rates among isolates and inoculation methods. Three naturally occurring endophytes-Trichoderma asperellum, Fusarium solani and F. redolens-were also isolated from the cocoa seedling tissues. These findings suggest that cocoa seedlings are conducive to endophytic fungal growth either occurring naturally or from artificial inoculation Our findings could possibly lead to an innovative approach to the management of herbivory and subterranean termite pests in cocoa agroforests.
Keywords: colonization; fungal endophytes; inoculation techniques; relative pathogenicity; subterranean termite pests; virulence.