Secret sex life of fungus extends value of resistant wheat for food production
Kema and co-workers recently published an article in the prestigious Nature Genetics journal on the sex life of Zymoseptoria tritici, the causal agent of septoria tritici blotch in wheat, the most important wheat disease in Europe and North Africa (Nature Genetics 50, 375–380, doi:10.1038/s41588-018-0052-9). They showed that avirulent isolates of the fungus do not disappear from the natural populations, but actively engage in sexual reproduction, thereby retaining their genes in the population. This results in a slow decline of resistance in wheat crops and also explains why resistance to strobilurin fungicides boomed in natural populations. The fungus is a close relative of Pseudocercospora fijiensis, the causal agent of black Sigatoka in banana. Both belong to the Dothideomycetes and therefore, the newly discovered aspects on the reproductive biology of this fungus may well apply to many more fungi, including P. fijiensis. This is important in any future breeding strategy for bananas.
Full publication (Subscription or payment may be required): Stress and sexual reproduction affect the dynamics of the wheat pathogen effector AvrStb6 and strobilurin resistance