Crop Killing Fungi
October 19, 2012

New List Highlights Top 10 Phytopathogenic Fungi

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

An enormous international team of experts, almost 500 members strong, has developed a ranking system of the ten most important phytopathogenic fungi on a scientific and economic level. Topping the list is the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae.

A survey conducted among the researchers resulted in a list of the most important phytopathogenic fungi, with each researcher choosing three that he or she thought most significant. The fungi that received the most votes formed the list.

Published in the journal Molecular Plant Pathology, the fungi on the list were analyzed by an expert in the field. Antonio Di Pietro from the University of Cordoba is one of those experts, describing the fungus Fusarium oxysporum that is number five on the list.

"Most of the pathogens on the list attack cereals like rice, wheat and maize. This is logical considering the huge importance of these crops in world agriculture", explained Di Pietro.

"Nonetheless, it is important to highlight the presence of the fungi in second and fifth place on the list (Botrytis cinerea and Fusarium oxysporum, respectively). These are generalist, wide-ranging pathogens which can cause damage in more than one hundred different crop species" the researcher added.

The rice blast fungus, at number one on the list, received nearly twice the votes of the number two species. Rice blast devastates rice paddies, which are the food base for more than half the world's population. Second place belongs to the botrytis bunch rot fungus, Botrytis cinerea, which is a wide-ranging pathogen. Unlike most of the other fungi on the list, boytrytis has positive uses due to its role in some stages of wine production.

The third place species includes the genus Puccinia, which mainly affect wheat crops. Fourth and fifth places are both from the Fusarium genus. Fusarium graminearum damages cereal plantations and Fusarium oxysporum affects tomatoes, cotton and bananas.

Sixth and seventh place go to other cereal pathogens, Blumeria graminis and Mycosphaerella graminicola.

Number eight is from the Colletrotrichum genus which attacks fruit and ornamental plants.

In ninth place is the corn smut fungus, Ustilago maydis. This is an edible fungus native to Mexico that made the list for its scientific interest as it has no particularly devastating effects.

Numbers nine and ten, Melampsora lini, both have important uses in the study of molecular bases of plant immunity and infection.

Di Pietro said, "the authors are trying to inform the public about the importance of phytopathogenic fungi as they represent a growing threat to global agriculture."