Updated on 20 June 2013
Rice blast has been known throughout recorded history and occurs in all countries where rice is grown
Singapore: A study by an international team of researchers has shed light on how the rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae, invades plant tissue. The finding is a step toward learning how to control the disease, which by some estimates destroys enough rice to feed 60 million people annually.
The team, led by distinguished professor in plant pathology, Dr Barbara Valent of Kansas State University, found that the fungus has evolved two distinct secretion systems that facilitate its invasion into rice plants. Study results have been published in Nature Communications.
"Knowing that a special secretion system is required for disease is significant, because it means we can block this system without harming other fungi that are critical for healthy ecosystems," Dr Valent said.
In addition to researchers from Kansas State University, the team includes professor Nicholas Talbot from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, and students in his laboratory, as well as scientists from the Iwate Biotechnology Research Center in Japan.
Rice blast has been known throughout recorded history and occurs in all countries where rice is grown. In 1985, wheat blast emerged as a new disease sharply reducing wheat yields in Brazil. So far, wheat blast has only spread within South America and has not been detected in the US. Dr Valent is now leading a team of scientists focused on developing resources for rapid identification and elimination of the disease if it should arrive in US wheat regions.