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Stopping yellow spot fungus that attacks wheat crops

Stopping yellow spot fungus that attacks wheat crops
Scientists from the Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM) and Curtin University in Western Australia have used an advanced imaging technique at the Australian Synchrotron for an in-depth look at how a fungus found in wheat crops is damaging its leaves.
 
Prof Mark Gibberd, director of the Centre, said the investigation was thought to be one of the first that utilized high-resolution X-ray imaging to examine biotic stress related to fungal infection in wheat.
 
Using X-ray fluorescence microscopy (XFM) on leaf samples collected from wheat plants, the team, which included project leader Dr. Fatima Naim and ARC Future Fellow Dr. Mark Hackett, mapped specific elements in the leaves in and around points of infection.
 
"Our research project looks at the physiological impact of plant diseases, such as yellow spot, on the function of leaves" said Gibberd.
 
Yellow spot is a ubiquitous fungal disease caused by Pyrenophora tritici-repentis (Ptr). It can reduce grain yields by up to 20 percent—a significant amount which could be the difference between a profitable and non-profitable crop for a farmer.
 
In Australia, it is one of the most costly diseases to the wheat industry, with wheat yield losses due to yellow spot estimated at over $210 million per year.
 
The fungus produces effectors, which are toxins that induce necrosis (cell death) in sensitive host varieties.
 
"While we continue to learn more about the host plant interactions and the role of effectors we also know that the impact of infection on photosynthesis extends well beyond the areas displaying visible symptoms."
 
"We are confident that the disease is impacting on a much greater leaf area than visible lesions.
 
The use of X-ray imaging allows us to examine these areas in very high resolution. We plan to compare our findings from the X-ray imaging with information from other techniques including multi-omics approaches and chlorophyll fluorescence imaging to evaluate photosynthetic performance," said Gibberd.
 
Breeding methods can produce strains that reduce its impact "We are really excited to be using XFM to help us understand what is happening at the tissue level" said Naim.
 
"We will correlate XFM data with other studies to gain a better understanding of physiological impacts of fungal diseases," she added.
 
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