Antifungal activity of ZnO nanoparticles and their interactive effect with a biocontrol bacterium on growth antagonism of the plant pathogen Fusarium graminearum

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Fungal plant pathogens such as Fusarium graminearum cause severe global economic losses in cereals crops, and current control measures are limited. This work addresses the potential for ZnO nanoparticles (NPs) and biocontrol bacteria to be used in plant fungal control strategies. Growth of F. graminearum was significantly (p = 0.05) inhibited by inclusion of the NPs in a mung bean broth agar and in sand. Suspension in mung bean broth medium modified the surface charge, dissolution, and aggregation state of the ZnO NPs, in comparison to processes occurring in water suspension. The ZnO NPs were significantly more inhibitory to fungal growth than micro-sized particles of ZnO, although both types of particles released similar levels of soluble Zn, indicating size-dependent toxicity of the particles. Zn ions produced dose-dependent inhibition, noticeable at the level of soluble Zn released from NPs after seven-day suspension in medium; inhibitory levels caused acidification of the growth medium. Transfer of fungal inoculum after exposure to the ZnO NPs to fresh medium did not indicate adaptation to the stress because growth was still inhibited by the NPs. The ZnO NPs did not prevent metabolites from a biocontrol bacterium, Pseudomonas chlororaphis O6, from inhibiting Fusarium growth: no synergism was observed in the mung bean agar. Because other studies find that soil amendment with ZnO NPs required high doses for inhibition of plant growth, the findings of pathogen growth control reported in this paper open the possibility of using ZnO NP-based formulations to complement existing strategies for improving crop health in field settings. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media New York.

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