The effect of size and acetylation degree of chitosan derivatives on tobacco plant protection against Phytophthora parasitica nicotianae

Enzymatic degradation of chitosan polymer with Pectinex Ultra SPL was used to obtain derivatives with biological potential as protective agents against Phytophthora parasitica nicotianae (Ppn) in tobacco plants. The 24 h hydrolysate showed the highest Ppn antipathogenic activity and the chitosan native polymer the lowest. The in vitro growth inhibition of several Phytophthora parasitica strains by two chitosans of different DA was compared. While less acetylated chitosan (DA 1%) fully inhibited three P. parasitica strains at the doses 500 and 1000 mg/l the second polymer (DA 36.5%) never completely inhibited such strains. When comparing two polymers of similar molecular weight and different DA, again the highest antipathogenic activity was for the less acetylated polymer. However, degraded chitosan always showed the highest pathogen growth inhibition. Additionally, a bioassay in tobacco seedlings to test plant protection against Ppn by foliar application demonstrated that partially acetylated chitosan and its hydrolysate induced systemic resistance and higher levels of glucanase activity than less acetylated chitosan. Similarly, when treatments were applied as seeds coating before planting, about 46% of plant protection was obtained using chitosan hydrolysate. It was concluded that, while less acetylated and degraded chitosan are better for direct inhibition of pathogen growth, partially acetylated and degraded chitosan are suitable to protect tobacco against P. parasitica by systemic induction of plant resistance.

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