'Warrior' fungus threatening wheat production: Study
Wheat production in Britain faces serious threat from the spread of exotic and aggressive "warrior" strains of a plant fungus, a new research has found.
London: Wheat production in Britain faces serious threat from the spread of exotic and aggressive "warrior" strains of a plant fungus, a new research has found.
New strains of the fungus Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici (PST) have recently emerged. They adapt to warmer temperatures, are more aggressive and have overcome many of the major defensive genes in wheat, the researchers said.
PST causes a disease called 'yellow rust', which is widespread across the major wheat-producing areas of the world.
Infections lead to significant reductions in both grain quality and yield, with some rare events leading to the loss of an entire crop.
"Our research shows that in the UK we have a newly emerging population of wheat rust fungus that could be the result of an influx of more exotic and aggressive strains that are displacing the previous population," said lead author Diane Saunders from John Innes Centre in Britain.
"Increased virulence, globalisation, and climate change, are all increasing the scale and frequency of emerging plant diseases, and threatening global food security," Saunders added.
The researchers used a new surveillance technique called "field pathogenomics" that could be applied internationally to respond to the spread of a wide variety of plant diseases.
The researchers sequenced genetic material from 39 PST-infected samples of wheat collected from 17 British counties in 2013.
Of the 2013 PST samples, 11 were genetically similar to a PST strain called "Warrior", the findings showed.
The strain earlier emerged in 2011 as a serious threat to European wheat production due to its virulence on an array of previously resistant wheat varieties.
The study was published in the journal Genome Biology.