How wheat can root out the 'take-all' fungus

How wheat can root out the 'take-all' fungus

Natural use of biology to control disease in crops is the Holy Grail of agriculture, and a team of young researchers has now pinpointed a way of easing cereals’ risks from a deadly root pathogen.

In the soils of the world’s cereal fields, a family tussle between related species of fungi is underway for control of the crops’ roots, with food security threatened if the wrong side wins. Beneficial fungi can help plants to protect themselves from cousins eager to overwhelm the roots, but it’s a closely fought battle.

‘Take-all’ is a devastating root disease of cereal crops worldwide caused by the fungal pathogen, Gaeumannomyces tritici. Related species, notably G. hyphopodioides, are capable of immunising plant roots against the pathogen. Farmers struggle to control the disease because few chemical seed treatments are available, and current biological strategies are hindered by the variety of soil types.

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