Isolation of Metarhizium spp. from rhizosphere soils of wild plants reflects fungal diversity in soil but not plant specificity
Understanding the abundance and diversity of fungal entomopathogens associated with plant species is critical for improving their field efficacy as microbial insecticides. Metarhizium is a cosmopolitan entomopathogenic fungus, with some species in this genus showing rhizosphere competencies. This study sought to determine the abundance and diversity of Metarhizium spp. in rhizosphere soils of wild plants in a field in Japan. Metarhizium spp. were detected in 76.2% of 151 rhizosphere soil samples collected from 41 plant species using a plating method. The mean density of Metarhizium spp. in rhizosphere soils was 1.2 × 104 colony forming units/g soil [base 10 logarithm of the mean = 4.06 (S.D. = 0.88)]. There was no significant difference in the densities and detection rates between Asteraceae and Poaceae as well as among two aster and one grass species. The fungal isolates were identified as five species, of which M. pingshaense was the most frequently detected and abundant species. No significant specific associations were recognised between the isolated Metarhizium spp. and the examined aster and grass species. Our findings demonstrated the high occurrence and abundance of M. pingshaense in rhizosphere soils of wild plants at the sampling site irrespective of host plant taxa.