Anti-insect secondary metabolites from fungal endophytes of conifer trees.
Choristoneura fumiferana is the most economically-important insect pest in eastern North America. Historically, strategies to control epidemics have relied on chemical pesticides that are no longer approved for use. The presence of fungal endophytes in cool area grass species and their role in reducing the impact of herbivorous insects is well understood. Recent work has demonstrated that foliar endophytes of conifers also produce anti-insect toxins. Field and nursery studies testing trees infected with the rugulosin producing endophyte Phialocephala scopiformis reduced the growth and development of C. fumiferana. The study of foliar endophytes from a variety of conifers including: Picea mariana, P. rubens and P. glauca as well as Abies balsamea and Larix laricina for the discovery of other anti-insect toxins are discussed. These endophytes are horizontally transmitted thus they are not present in nursery seedlings. Inoculating seedlings with toxigenic endophyte strains has been demonstrated to be effective in providing the tree with tolerance to herbivorous insects.