The occurrence of entomopathogenic fungi was investigated in irrigated vegetable fields and citrus orchards soils, over a nine-month period (April-December 1999),using the Galleria bait method (GBM). Entomopathogenic fungi were found to occur in 33.6% of the soil samples studied, with positive samples yielding 70 fungal isolates, belonging to 20 species from 13 genera. Conidiobolus coronatus was the most frequent and abundant entomopathogenic species recovered, comprising 31.4% of the total number of isolates. Soil pH, soil moisture content and the geographical location had minor or no effect on the isolation of entomopathogenic fungi in the fields studied. On the other hand, organic matter content of soil, and vegetation type were found to significantly affect the occurrence of entomopathogenic fungi in soil habitats, with orchard fields yielding larger numbers of isolates than vegetable fields. Using Koch's postulates the pathogenicity of fungal isolates to Galleria larvae was found to range from 16–100% (mortality rate). Isolates of C. coronatus proved to be the most virulent isolates recovered. The effect of media and temperature on mycelial growth rate, conidial production and conidial germination of six entomopathogenic fungal species (C. coronatus, Entomophaga grylli, Erynia castrans, Hirsutella jonesii, Paecilomyces farinosus and Sporodiniella umbellata) was also studied. Mycelial growth rate, spore production and spore germination were significantly affected by media, temperature and isolates. In view of the present results, C. coronatus appears to be a good candidate for pest control in agricultural soils, as it has a wide tolerance to agricultural practices, has frequently been isolated from both vegetable and orchard fields, and is characterized by high mycelial growth rate, conidial production and conidial germination.
Conidiobolus coronatus agricultural soils, edaphic factors, entomopathogenic fungi, Galleria bait method