Currently, the control of leaf-cutting ants is carry out through chemical insecticides, mainly sulfluramide. This compound is persistent in the environment and bioaccumulative, so that the development of alternative methods for controlling these pest insects is desirable. In a previous study (FAPESP # 06/58043-3 - Control of leaf-cutting ants: integrated studies) many filamentous fungi were isolated from leaf-cutting ant nests. Several fungal isolates occurred in high abundance, in particular Syncephalastrum racemosum. Information on the potential of this fungus as antagonist to the ant-cultivar is scanty. The objective of the present study is to evaluate the potential of S. racemosum as an antagonist towards the ant-cultivated fungus. Here, we intent to carry out in vitro experiments in which different strains of S. racemosum will be cultured in the presence of the Atta sexdens rubropilosa cultivar. In addition, we aim to assess the nature of the interaction between S. racemosum and the ant's cultivar. The spore viability of S. racemosum will be also evaluated in an attempt to correlate this character with its antagonist potential. Given that is highly desirable to reduce the use of chemical compounds to combat leaf-cutting ants, the present research constitutes the first step in studying, among the micro-organisms associated with leaf-cutting ants, those with potential as biological control agents.
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