The potential for devastating crop diseases to be controlled biologically is one step closer after a discovery by researchers from The University of Western Australia and Huazhong Agricultural University in China.

Mycoviruses are viruses that infect and multiply in fungi and therefore have the potential to control fungal plant pathogens biologically. This is because they can reduce their fungal host’s growth, development and reproduction significantly.

The fungal plant pathogen Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is a devastating plant pathogen that attacks economically important broad acre and vegetable crops worldwide. This is the first study to show the widespread existence of mycoviruses infecting S. sclerotiorum in Australia.

Professor Martin Barbetti from UWA’s School of Agriculture and Environment and Institute of Agriculture who led the study with Dr Ming Pei You said with control of S. sclerotiorum being such a challenge worldwide, establishing the presence and nature of mycoviruses infecting this important pathogen in Australia constitutes a highly significant finding.

“There are two important outcomes from this study. Firstly, mycoviruses that infect S. sclerotiorum are very widespread in Australia, and secondly, they include many novel mycoviruses that occur in Australia that we did not know about previously,” Professor Barbetti said.

“Some of these mycoviruses are very debilitating to the Sclerotinia pathogen and offer significant potential for innovative biocontrol of devastating Sclerotinia diseases of crops such as canola and pulse crops here in Australia and elsewhere.”

Further characterization of these mycoviruses is warranted to explore their potential use as biological control in a wide range of major crops.

The paper, Virome characterization of a collection of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum from Australia was published in Frontiers in Microbiology. The research was supported by the Australian Research Council, the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, China Agriculture Research System and the Programme of Introducing Talents of Discipline to Universities in China.

 



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