Plant pathogens challenge our efforts to maximize crop production due to their ability to rapidly develop resistance to pesticides. Fungal biocontrol agents have become an important alternative to chemical fungicides, due to environmental concerns related to the latter. Here we review the complex modes of action of biocontrol agents in general and epiphytic yeasts belonging to the genus Pseudozyma specifically and P. aphidis in particular. Biocontrol agents act through multiple direct and indirect mechanisms, which are mainly based on their secretions. We discuss the direct modes of action, such as antibiosis, reactive oxygen species-producing, and cell wall-degrading enzyme secretions which can also play a role in mycoparasitism. In addition, we discuss indirect modes of action, such as hyperbiotrophy, induced resistance and growth promotion based on the secretion of effectors and elicitors from the biocontrol agent. Due to their unique characteristics, epiphytic yeasts hold great potential for use as biocontrol agents, which may be more environmentally friendly than conventional pesticides and provide a way to reduce our dependency on fungicides based on increasingly expensive fossil fuels. No less important, the complex mode of action of Pseudozyma-based biocontrol agents can also reduce the frequency of resistance developed by pathogens to these agents.
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- Epiphytic fungi