Endophytes vs tree pathogens and pests: can they be used as biological control agents to improve tree health?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


  • Mojgan Rabiey
  • Luke E. Hailey
  • Shyamali R. Roy
  • Kristina Grenz
  • Mahira A.S. Al-Zadjali
  • Glyn A. Barrett

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Reading


Like all other plants, trees are vulnerable to attack by a multitude of pests and pathogens. Current control measures for many of these diseases are limited and relatively ineffective. Several methods, including the use of conventional synthetic agro-chemicals, are employed to reduce the impact of pests and diseases. However, because of mounting concerns about adverse effects on the environment and a variety of economic reasons, this limited management of tree diseases by chemical methods is losing ground. The use of biological control, as a more environmentally friendly alternative, is becoming increasingly popular in plant protection. This can include the deployment of soil inoculants and foliar sprays, but the increased knowledge of microbial ecology in the phytosphere, in particular phylloplane microbes and endophytes, has stimulated new thinking for biocontrol approaches. Endophytes are microbes that live within plant tissues. As such, they hold potential as biocontrol agents against plant diseases because they are able to colonize the same ecological niche favoured by many invading pathogens. However, the development and exploitation of endophytes as biocontrol agents will have to overcome numerous challenges. The optimization and improvement of strategies employed in endophyte research can contribute towards discovering effective and competent biocontrol agents. The impact of environment and plant genotype on selecting potentially beneficial and exploitable endophytes for biocontrol is poorly understood. How endophytes synergise or antagonise one another is also an important factor. This review focusses on recent research addressing the biocontrol of plant diseases and pests using endophytic fungi and bacteria, alongside the challenges and limitations encountered and how these can be overcome. We frame this review in the context of tree pests and diseases, since trees are arguably the most difficult plant species to study, work on and manage, yet they represent one of the most important organisms on Earth.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-729
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Plant Pathology
Issue number3
Early online date13 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Biological control, Disease, Endophytes, Pathogen, Pest, Trees