Undercover agent: Uncovering the effects of cover crops on a beneficial soil fungus

2016 Annual Report for GNE16-133

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2016: $14,569.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Pennsylvania State University
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Mary Barbercheck
PSU Dept. of Entomology

Undercover agent: Uncovering the effects of cover crops on a beneficial soil fungus


This project is geared towards investigating the impact of cover crops and soil characteristics on the occurrence and diversity of Metarhizium. Accordingly, the project consists of  4 objectives as listed in this report below. We collected soil samples from 12 cover crop treatments and baited with Galleria mellonella larva. The baiting assay data was analyzed using negative binomial regression to study the impact of soil properties on the occurrence of Metarhizium. Further, Metarhizium isolates were obtained from the soil samples and molecular characterization was carried out for 91 isolates. According to molecular characterization data, M robertsii and M brunneum were the predominant species among the isolates. There seems to be strain level instead of species level diversity. The official project started on August 1, 2016 so only one of the objectives (i..e, objective 1) has been completed. Detailed analysis and inference is in progress for the data at hand.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Objective 1: Determine the effects of cover crop treatments and soil characteristics on the occurrence and species diversity of endemic Metarhizium isolates using sentinel insect assays and molecular techniques. Completed.

Objective 2:Determine the ability of endemic Metarhizium species to establish growth in corn and selected cover crop species. Ongoing.

Objective 3: Measure the effects of Metarhizium-infection of corn on the growth of corn and a corn pest. To be started.

Objective 4: Develop extension products for outreach and extension events relating to effects of cover crops on Metarhizium. To be started.


In our study we found two species namely M. robertsii and M. brunneum predominating in the cover crop treatments. The different genotypes of M. robertsii namely; KVL 12-36, KVL 12-42, IP-642, SAR 14-174, SAR 14-24, SAR 14-78, SAR 14-227, SAR14-160, HKB-1b and ARSEF 8685 genotype of M. brunneum were found in our cover crop treatments.The tables for different genotypes and isolate distribution are attached. The analysis of effect of soil properties on occurrence of Metarhizium is being analyzed.




Dr. Mary Barbercheck

Professor of Entomology
Pennsylvania State University
Department of Entomology 501 ASI Building
Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: (814)8632982