Exploring how a hazardous fungal pathogen 'tastes' its surroundings within a wheat plant to coordinate virulence could be the key to developing new control strategies, scientists believe.
Researchers at the University of Bath and Rothamsted Research have been examining how "fungal G-protein coupled receptors," which are similar to taste receptors on our tongues, are involved in promoting Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) -- a damaging and hazardous disease of wheat which is the number one floral disease in cereals globally.
Fusarium Head Blight targets the ear and grain of the wheat plants and is therefore a major problem for farmers of one of the world's most important crops. The disease is economically costly, damaging wheat crops towards the end of the growing cycle, and contaminating the wheat grain with fungal toxins (mycotoxins) which are dangerous for humans and animals to eat.
In the UK we have outbreaks of FHB every few years, experiencing wheat crop losses of around 10% in 2012. In other parts of the world such as the USA, Brazil and China, the disease causes severe crop losses and mycotoxin contamination problems for farmers every harvest.