Archive for the ‘Fungi’ Category

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University Innovations Cross Borders to Deliver Impact

August 3, 2017
Photo by Amer Fayad-  Farmers in Nepal prepare seedling trays using coconut pith and the beneficial fungus Trichoderma.

Bangladesh and Nepal are so close they could touch, if not for the small sliver of India between them. The three countries share more than proximity: Thanks to the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management, they also share technologies and research that help them grow better food and increase agricultural productivity.

For many years, agriculture has made huge advances because of research, helping farmers and food producers boost yields, produce more nutritious and safe food, and keep up with agricultural demand. Through 24 U.S. university-led Feed the Future Innovation Labs, Feed the Future supports research that combats emerging threats.

Often, this important work spans borders.

In 1998, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management began working in Bangladesh and expanded its work to India and Nepal in 2005. While the Innovation Lab no longer has projects in India, the innovations it developed there are now helping address agricultural challenges in neighboring countries.

“Crop pests and diseases don’t care about borders,” said Muni Muniappan, director of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab. “So we also share technologies across borders.”

One of the biggest successes to come out of this three-country partnership is the use of Trichoderma, a fungus that fights diseases, promotes plant growth, and is safe to handle. Researchers from the Innovation Lab previously worked with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in India, which had been producing and selling Trichoderma to farmers. Once researchers learned about its benefits, they began promoting its production and use in Bangladesh and Nepal.

Trichoderma has been a godsend in treating fungal diseases in developing countries,” Muniappan said. “It is easy and cheap to produce, very effective against pests, and in addition to helping farmers regain their livelihood, it has created a new source of income.”

In India, the commercial production of Trichoderma was so successful that Tamil Nadu Agricultural University built a new plant pathology building out of the money it made from the sale of the fungus. It is also an asset to vendors. In Nepal, entrepreneurs are making a living selling the fungus, based in part on trainings they received through the Innovation Lab. And in Bangladesh, Trichoderma is mixed with compost and applied in the field to combat soilborne diseases of vegetable crops.

Another technology developed in India and implemented successfully in Bangladesh and Nepal is the use of coconut dust to help raise seedlings. Coconut dust, previously considered a waste material, provides an ideal medium in which to grow healthy, young seedlings until they’re ready to be transplanted. Producing the seedling trays creates jobs, especially for women. They often earn valuable extra income doing this work, which they can invest in their families.

The Innovation Lab has disseminated other technological innovations and approaches throughout the three countries, like grafting vegetable shoots, using pheromone traps, and making bio-pesticides. To help rural farmers access and understand these tools and improved practices, the Innovation Lab is not only working through the usual channels of extension agents, NGOs, and development projects, but also by helping local, small-scale industries produce and market the recommended products to those that need them most.

Continuing their work to connect researchers from across the world, the Innovation Lab facilitates the transfer of vital technologies by organizing travel opportunities for Bangladeshi and Nepali farmers, scientists, and entrepreneurs to visit Indian universities and bio-pesticide companies. They also arrange for Indian scientists to visit Bangladesh and Nepal to host scientific workshops to share knowledge.

In 2016, five representatives from Bangladesh’s leading agribusiness firms traveled to India to visit nurseries, attend university lectures, and see a bio-fertilizer lab.

The connections made between India, Bangladesh and Nepal have led to increased crop production, a reduction in health and environmental damage, and an economic benefit to local farmers and agri-business entrepreneurs. They are also a valuable opportunity for developing countries to profit and learn from one another

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From PestNet

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Sat 22 Jul 2017 12:13 AM IST
Source: Greater Kashmir [edited]

A disease diagnostic visit was carried out by a team of experts to
affected paddy fields at Budgam and Chadoora sub divisions [of Budgam
district]. The observations include that at all the places the paddy
fields were found affected with rice blast disease. “As enquired from
farmers, no disease management practice was adopted in the affected
fields. Disease incidence ranging from 10 to 30 per cent and intensity
of 3.5 to 17.6 per cent was recorded in China varieties,” [a
spokesperson] added.

The probable causes of [the] outbreak, as per experts, are:
cultivation of varieties susceptible to blast, use of own saved seed,
no management practice applied. The team has recommended immediate
spray of [fungicide].

Communicated by:

[Rice blast is caused by the fungus _Pyricularia oryzae_ (synonym
_Magnaporthe oryzae_). It is one of the most destructive diseases of
the crop worldwide, with potential yield losses of more than 50 per
cent. Symptoms include lesions on all parts of the shoot, as well as
stem rot and panicle blight. When nodes are infected, all plant parts
above the infection die and yield losses are severe. When infection
occurs at the seedling or tillering stages, plants are often
completely killed. Depending on which plant parts are affected, the
disease may manifest itself as leaf, collar, node, or neck blast. More
than 50 species of grasses and sedges can be affected by related
pathogens, but most strains isolated from rice can only infect a
limited number of cultivars.

The fungus also causes wheat blast (for example, see ProMED-mail posts
http://promedmail.org/post/20170306.4883233 and
http://promedmail.org/post/20170123.4784298). Although the pathogens
are currently classified as the same species, the wheat blast pathogen
is a distinct population (referred to as _P. oryzae_ Triticum
population) and does not cause disease in rice.

Symptom severity and spread of the blast fungus are influenced by
climatic conditions. The disease is also favoured by high nitrogen
levels (for example from fertilisers) and high humidity. The fungus is
spread with infected plant material (including seed), by mechanical
means (including insect activity), water and wind. Disease management
may include fungicides and cultural practices but relies mainly on
resistant varieties. However, the fungus is highly variable and this
favours the emergence of new strains with increased virulence. Use of
certified clean seed is essential, and farm saved seed, as mentioned
above, would pose a high risk of carry-over of the fungus to
subsequent crops.

Kashmir has been using rice cultivars from China for a long time. The
pathogen strains in that area have been shown to be more closely
related to Chinese and Japanese variants than to other Indian ones
(ProMED-mail post http://promedmail.org/post/20160407.4145967). This
would indicate that these strains were imported into Kashmir together
with the host and that resistant rice cultivars developed in China or
Japan may be a useful resource for developing resistant varieties
suitable for Kashmir.

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Development of Powdery Mildew Resistant Tomato via CRISPR-Cas9

In tomato (Solanum lycopersicum), there are sixteen Mlo genes, with SlMlo1 being the major contributor to the susceptibility to the powdery mildew caused by Oidium neolycopersici. Natural loss-of-function slmlo1 mutants are available in tomato, however, introgression of such mutations is a lengthy process. The team of Vladimir Nekrasov from the Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich Research Park in the UK aimed to generate a transgene-free genetically edited slmlo1 tomato using the CRISPR-Cas9 system.

The team targeted the SlMlo1 locus using the double sgRNA strategy. Transformants were analyzed and eight out of ten tested T0 transformants indicated the presence of mutations. Assays using the powdery mildew fungus revealed that all the generated T0 slmlo1 mutant plants were resistant to the pathogen, while wild-type plants were susceptible.

Furthermore, the slmlo1 mutant plants were morphologically similar to the wild type and also produced harvested fruit weight similar to the wild types. The team named the generated variety Tomelo. This study presents evidence for CRISPR-Cas9 being a highly precise tool for genome editing in tomato.

For more on this study, read the article in Nature.

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Invasive myrtle rust disease discovered on mainland NZ

Published: 5 May 2017

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has confirmed the presence of the myrtle rust plant disease on mainland New Zealand for first time, in Kerikeri.

MPI and Auckland Council are asking Aucklanders to keep their eyes peeled for this invasive fungus and to report it immediately if spotted.

Councillor Penny Hulse, Chair of council’s Environment and Community Committee says the find is extremely worrying and vigilance is needed.

“It’s very early days and we know that MPI are doing everything in their power to prevent the spread of this disease. Council’s biosecurity staff are standing by to assist MPI if needed.

“In the meantime we can all add to the effort by keeping myrtle rust top of mind when we are outdoors over the coming weeks and months. If you think you’ve seen it in Auckland, please call MPI straight away.”

What is myrtle rust disease?

Myrtle leaf rust is a serious fungal disease that attacks members of the myrtle family of plants.

It could have a serious impact on our native pohutukawa, manuka, kanuka and rata as well as feijoa and eucalypts, damaging or even killing them.  Myrtle rust spores are microscopic and can easily spread across large distances by wind, or via insects, birds, people, or machinery.

What does it look like?

You’re most likely to spot myrtle rust on young, soft, actively growing leaves, shoot tips and young stems, as well as flowers and fruit.

Initial symptoms are powdery, bright yellow or orange-yellow spots, or brown-grey rust pustules in the case of older infections. The rust can appear red depending on the types of spores being produced.

The fungus often causes leaves to buckle or twist and die off.

What should I do if I spot it?

Report it immediately to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) on 0800 80 99 66.

Do not touch the fungus or try and take samples as this will increase the risk of it spreading. Note down its location and take photos if possible.

Visit the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) for more information.

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AUT Student Journalism

Team effort to fight threatening fungal plant disease


Ashleigh Martin April 8, 2017

<!– Ashleigh Martin –>

Team effort to fight threatening fungal plant disease

Look out for yellow powdery eruptions on leaves. Photo: Supplied / M Daughtrey, Cornell University

The Ministry of Primary Industries has issued a call to arms after a fungal plant disease which could affect New Zealand native plants and our honey industry was found on Raoul Island.

The disease, myrtle rust, can be identified by bright yellow powdery eruptions on leaves and attacks various species of plant such as pōhutukawa, kānuka, mānuka and non-natives like the feijoa plant.

Amid fears the disease could spread to these shores, MPI is working with DOC and the New Zealand Defence Force to survey Raoul for it.

David Yard, MPI incident controller, said several DOC workers were going over the island, so a joint plan could be made.

“They’ve been briefed on how to minimise the risk of spreading it…because obviously the risk is if you work through an affected area, you might actually spread the disease,” Mr Yard said.

Raoul Island is 1100km away from the nearest part of the New Zealand mainland. The island is also very rocky and mountainous, making work difficult.

“We’ve been working with the Defence Force should we need to get materials, equipment and people onto the island to support DOC efforts,” Mr Yard said.

The disease can travel long distances by wind and can also be transported by insects, rain splashes and contaminated clothing.

The Wellington-based Science Media Centre quoted Dr David Teulon, director of Better Border Biosecurity, who said myrtle rust had been spreading rapidly around the world in recent years.

“If it reached mainland New Zealand, it could have a serious impact on a number of our taonga Māori plant species, such as pōhutukawa and rātā, with severe infections causing plants to die,” Dr Teulon said.

“Plants that are also important to our honey industry, such as mānuka and kānuka, could also be affected, which could severely impact on New Zealand’s annual $300 million of honey exports.”

– See more at: http://www.tewahanui.nz/environment/team-effort-to-fight-threatening-fungal-plant-disease#sthash.vF0oxCzv.dpuf

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March 23, 2017

Novel virus breaks barriers between incompatible fungi
SsMYRV4-mediated enhancement of horizontal transmission between different VCGs effectively prevents and controls Sclerotinia diseases. Credit: Wu S, et al. (2017)

Scientists have identified a virus that can weaken the ability of a fungus to avoid pairing with other incompatible fungi, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens. By promoting fungal pairing, the virus could aid transmission of additional unrelated viruses between fungi.

Fungi, like all other organisms, can recognize foreign substances; such non-self recognition can help protect against pathogens. Some also use non-self recognition to avoid pairing and sharing genetic material with incompatible strains. The fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, which infects hundreds of plant species worldwide, employs this strategy, which is known as vegetative incompatibility.

While studying S. sclerotiorum, Jiatao Xie of Huazhong Agricultural University, China, and colleagues discovered a they named Sclerotinia sclerotiorum mycoreovirus 4 (SsMYRV4). To better understand this novel virus, they grew infected S. sclerotiorum alongside other vegetatively incompatible strains and investigated the molecular effects.

The researchers found that SsMYRV4 decreased expression of S. sclerotiorum genes that promote vegetative incompatibility. Vegetative incompatibility is a molecular process that normally causes when two incompatible strains touch each other; in this study, Xie’s team found a reduction in the amount of cell death that normally occurs in intermingled colonies of incompatible strains.

S. sclerotiorum infected with SsMYRV4 successfully made connections with incompatible by fusing filamentous structures known as hyphae. To investigate the consequences, the scientists grew SsMYRV4-infected fungi alongside fungi infected with other unrelated viruses. They found that the unrelated viruses were able to pass through the fused hyphae, crossing between fungal pairs.

Vegetative is considered a significant obstacle to using viruses to effectively control fungal diseases. These new findings could point to a new strategy that uses SsMYRV4 to weaken barriers between fungi. They could also improve understanding of virus ecology and evolution.

Explore further: Potential biological control agents found for fungal diseases of soybean

More information: Wu S, Cheng J, Fu Y, Chen T, Jiang D, Ghabrial SA, et al. (2017) Virus-mediated suppression of host non-self recognition facilitates horizontal transmission of heterologous viruses. PLoS Pathog 13(3): e1006234. DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006234

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-03-virus-barriers-incompatible-fungi.html#jCp


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west f p

Almond Bloom
The four main fungal diseases in almonds, which can do the most damage to the crop, are brown rot, anthracnose, shot hole, and jacket rot. All four are different and have different sensitivities to fungicides.

Cecilia Parsons | Mar 01, 2017

Warm and wet weather as the Central Valley’s almond orchards burst into bloom makes widespread fungal diseases almost a sure bet.

“If growers get behind on their control and can’t get the fungicide sprays on, they might get hammered this year,” warns Dani Lightle, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) farm advisor in the Northern California counties of Glenn, Butte, and Tehama.

Lightle says, “If pathogens get a foothold and it rains through bloom and after, there may be a lot of crop damage. You can’t catch up with these diseases.”

David Doll, UCCE farm advisor at Merced County, says fungicide applications are a preventative measure, not a control. Wet conditions during this year’s bloom created a perfect environment for fungal growth.

The pathogens are always present in an orchard, Doll explains, but they need a host and the right environmental conditions. Continued warm and wet conditions during bloom can open the doors for fungal infections.

“With no fungicide applications and current conditions, significant yield losses can be expected,” Doll said. “Depending on the variety, it could be 20-30 percent.”

On Feb. 1, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation approved the aerial application of fungicides in six North State counties due to the number of almond orchards inaccessible with ground spray rigs.

The exemption allows for fungicide applications in orchards with standing water. No pumping of water is allowed after the applications and the sprays must cease if a rain event is imminent.

The four main fungal diseases in almonds, which can do the most damage to the crop, are brown rot, anthracnose, shot hole, and jacket rot. All four are different and have different sensitivities to fungicides, according to Doll.


Anthracnose symptoms include blossom blight and fruit infections often with spur and limb dieback. Infected flowers appear similar to brown rot strikes. Infected nuts show round, orange-colored sunken lesions on the hull with symptoms appearing about three weeks after petal fall. Nuts can be infected later in the season if conditions are favorable.

Diseased nuts become mummified but remain attached to the spur. Shoots or branches with infected nuts often die. UC Integrated Pest Management (IPM) guidelines report that all cultivars are susceptible.

Management calls for fungicide treatments beginning at 5-10 percent bloom and repeated every 10-14 days if wet weather persists. Specific materials and application rates can be found on the IPM web site.


Almond blossoms are most susceptible to brown rot when fully open. Stigma, anthers, and petals are all susceptible to brown rot infection. Gum may secrete from the base of infected flowers.

This fungus survives on twig cankers and on remaining diseased flower parts and spurs. Spores are airborne or water splashed, and infections spread rapidly in wet weather with temperatures in the mid-70s.

Timing for control should be determined by the bloom of the most seriously affected cultivar. If infections were widespread the previous year, multiple fungicide applications may be necessary.


Symptoms of shot hole include spots on leaves, hulls, twigs, and flowers. Leaf lesions begin as tiny reddish specks. Spots on young leaves will fall out leaving a shot hole appearance. Older leaves retain the lesions.

Heavy infections can cause nutlets to drop, become distorted, or gum up. Infected trees will weaken, defoliate, and lose production.

There is a high risk of shot hole development in the spring if shot hole lesions with fruiting structures are found on leaves in the fall. Fruiting structures appear in the center of leaf lesions as small black spots, viewable with a hand lens.

Fungicide applications depend on weather conditions and the level of infection found in the fall.


Jacket rot, or green fruit rot, begins later in the bloom period when the fungus infects petals and anthers. The infection can spread to floral tubes or flower jackets causing them to wither and stick to developing nutlets. Entire nut clusters can rot if covered with the infected flower parts.

Jacket rot is not as prevalent as the three other fungal diseases and is more likely to appear in cooler weather conditions. Fungicide should be applied at full bloom to prevent jacket rot.

Lightle says targeting fungicide choices to the fungal disease of concern is vital. She encouraged use of the fungicide efficacy tables available at http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/r3902111.html.

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