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The 10 most relevant fungi in phytopathology

Figure 1. A) Characteristic lesions of Maganaporthe oryzae in susceptible rice seedlings. B) Reproductive structures and infection of the fungus. C) Growth of M. oryzae in synthetic medium under laboratory conditions.

Author: Cristian F. Quispe, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Phytopathology at ZAMORANO

Photographs: Cristian F. Quispe, 2010.

Source: Dean, R., et al. 2012. The Top 10 fungal pathogens. Molecular Plant Pathology, 13: 414-430. doi: 10.1111 / j.1364-3703.2011.00783.x

Fungi are eukaryotic organisms that play important roles in the development of life on the planet, for example, they actively participate in the processes of disintegration of organic matter, agricultural production and food processing. However, they also constitute the group to which the greatest number of agents that cause devastating diseases in animals and plants belong.

The most important phytopathogenic fungi vary according to the scientific and economic priorities of a geographical region. However, some represent high risks for food security and are study models in topics related to immunology, epidemiological factors and genetics in plants. Most have successful mechanisms of dissemination, genetic variability and a wide range of hosts, which help to break the few resistance barriers available.

Therefore, it is important to focus on the study of aspects such as biology, genetic diversity and adaptability processes that can contribute to the development of better control strategies. Most studied phytopathogenic fungi belong to the ascomycete group and usually affect the grasses. In the list of the 10 most important fungi in phytopathology are:

  1. Magnaporthe oryzae affects rice and is the grain on which about 50% of the world population depends (Fig. 1). The disease produces large losses in annual rice production and has a complex of species that can affect other grasses.
  2. Botrytis cinerea affects more than 200 species of plants and the cost of its management represents 10% of the worldwide sale of fungicides.
  3. Puccinia spp. are three biotrophic species that affect wheat. About 90% of the cultivated wheat is susceptible to the fungus, since the pathogen has a successful dissemination capacity and wide genetic variability.
  4. Fusarium graminearum affects the majority of cereals in their flowering stage and the infected grain produces mycotoxins that are dangerous for human and animal consumption.
  5. Fusarium oxysporum comprises complex fungal species common in the soil that cause vascular wilt in a wide range of hosts.
  6. Blumeria graminis is a persistent obligatory biotope in the field and mainly affects grasses.
  7. Mycosphaerella graminicola affects wheat from temperate zones and the pathogenicity of the fungus has been influenced by climate change.
  8. Colletotrichum spp. It has a wide taxonomic diversity and is the most important genus that affects a wide range of crops.
  9. Ustilago maydis does not cause large losses in corn but its importance is as a model for studies related to biotrophic fungi.
  10. Melampsora lini is an organism that has made important advances in the development of genetic studies.
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Glossary:   Eukaryotes: organisms that have complex structures of membranes that enclose specialized organelles of the cell such as the nucleus, mitochondria and chloroplasts. Grasses: group of monocotyledonous plants to which the majority of economically important crops such as corn, wheat and rice belong.   Biotrophs: organisms that need living cells for their development and reproduction.   Mycotoxins: toxic substances produced by fungi that have the ability to significantly affect the health of other organisms.

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