Wednesday, October 20, 2021

A plant’s place in history can predict susceptibility to pathogens

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IMAGE: Author and plant pathologist Micheal Bradshaw with a view of sunflowers more

Credit: Michael Bradshaw

Present all over the world, powdery mildew is a fungal disease that is particularly harmful to plants of the sunflower family. Like most invasive pathogens, powdery mildew is under-studied and learning how it affects hosts can help growers do more informed decisions and protect their crops.

Scientists at the University of Washington and the University of Central Florida inoculated 126 species of plants in the sunflower family with powdery mildew, growing 500 plants from seeds collected from the wild and supplied by the material network USDA genetics. Thanks to this large-scale study, they were able to measure the sensitivity of different plants to powdery mildew.

“We observed that the amount of disease present on a host can depend on where that host is on the tree of life – that is, the evolutionary history of a host can predict to how susceptible this host is to the disease, ”explained Michael Bradshaw, a plant pathologist involved in the study.

They also measured common plant traits, such as biomass, trichome density, and chlorophyll …

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