Oomycetes, or water moulds, are fungal-like organisms phylogenetically related to algae. They cause devastating diseases in both plants and animals. Here, we describe seven oomycete species that are emerging or re-emerging threats to agriculture, horticulture, aquaculture and natural ecosystems. They include the plant pathogens Phytophthora infestans , Phytophthora palmivora , Phytophthora ramorum , Plasmopara obducens , and the animal pathogens Aphanomyces invadans , Saprolegnia parasitica and Halioticida noduliformans . For each species, we describe its pathology, importance and impact, discuss why it is an emerging threat and briefly review current research activities.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Tackling emerging fungal threats to animal health, food security and ecosystem resilience’.
We’ve blogged about the Carolina African Runner peanut a number of times here, and it made NPR’s The Salt just after Christmas, but now it has received the podcast treatment too, thanks to Jeremy. It’s a great story, well told.
Cross-posted from JeremyCherfas.net The resurrection of the Carolina African Runner peanut has been greeted with joy throughout the land.  That it came to America with enslaved people from West Africa is undisputed; few people, however, seem interested in what
There’s really nothing better than a map to explain the history of domestication in an economic and effective fashion, but I have to say that this recent example from a paper on crop domestication in the Fertile Crescent misses the
Over at the work blog, I’m busy jumping on the biodiversity mainstreaming bandwagon, but I wrote that piece before news came out this morning from the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Cancun of the disappointing lack of progress around
The oomycete Phytophthora infestans was the causal agent of the Irish Great Famine and is a recurring threat to global food security. The pathogen can reproduce both sexually and asexually, with high potential to adapt to various environments and great risk to break disease resistance genes in potato. As other oomycetes, P. infestans is regarded to be diploid during the vegetative phase of its life cycle, although some studies reported trisomy, and polyploidy. Using microsatellite fingerprinting, genome-wide assessment of SNP polymorphism, nuclear DNA quantification, and microscopic counting of chromosome numbers we assessed the ploidy level of isolates. All progeny from sexual populations of P. infestans in nature were found to be diploid, in contrast nearly all dominant asexual lineages, including the most important pandemic clonal lineages US-1 and 13_A2 were triploid. Such triploids possess significantly more allelic variation than diploids. We observed that triploid genotype can change to a diploid genome constitution when exposed to artificial stress conditions. This study reveals that fluctuations in the ploidy level maybe a key factor in the adaptation process of this notorious plant destroyer and imposes an extra challenge to control this disease.
A very unrandom selection of participants at the latest Annual Genebanks Meeting of the CGIAR, which took place at the Australian Grains Genebank in Horsham and AgriBio, La Trobe University, Melbourne last week, and is the reason for our silence...
Hot on the heels of my own short recent piece on the subject of the threats faced by coconuts, which took its inspiration from a Bloomberg article, comes a little note in The Atlantic, and a much fuller and better...
The Indian Journal of Plant Genetic Resources has published a special edition that includes the papers presented at the recent Agrobiodiversity Congress. Unfortunately, they are behind a paywall there, but you can download the whole thing from the Congress website,
One of the foremost public repositories of crop diversity is looking for a new Executive Director. What does the job entail? The Executive Director is responsible for managing the Seed Savers Exchange’s day-to-day operations, staff, and all budget and fiscal
Yes, we’re back from the holidays, fully energized1 and with a gargantuan helping of Nibbles to get your new year started the right way. There’s a Brainfood coming too, in the next day or two, before going back to the
It turns out I don’t have to get an intern to go through a whole bunch of NBSAPs to fillet out how agriculture is being mainstreamed into biodiversity conservation plans. That’s because Bioversity have done it for me. The bottom
It’s kind of buried in the IUCN press release, between giraffes and freshwater species, but there’s good news for researchers interested in crop wild relatives. With this update, the first assessments of 233 wild relatives of crop plants such as
It turns out we do know what Cary Fowler had to say when he received the Frank N. Meyer Medal for Plant Genetic Resources. It’s not on the relevant website, but it is here below, courtesy of Cary himself. Last
Global businesses are increasingly pledging to obtain key commodities only from sources that do not contribute to deforestation. Now, nonprofit groups are deploying data tools that help hold these companies to their promises by tracing the origins of everything from soy to timber to beef...
NGOs launched... the first global ecological tracking system for the commodities that drive tropical deforestation... Trase – Transparency for Sustainable Economies... “Over the next five years, we aim to cover over 70 percent of the total production in major forest-risk commodities, for the first time laying bare the flows of globally traded commodities that are driving deforestation” says Toby Gardner... Through transparency, Gardner hopes for accountability. And if the deforesters are accountable, he hopes they will stop – or be forced to stop.
The threat posed to rainforests by the international trade in agricultural commodities now far exceeds any other. At least two-thirds of deforestation comes down to a few key commodities: palm oil, soy, timber, paper and pulp, beef, and leather, according to Forest 500, a program of the GCP that ranks corporations and others according to their progress towards deforestation-free supply chains... The growing, trading, processing, and selling of these commodities accounts for nearly a trillion dollars in corporate revenues a year.
Under pressure from consumers and investors to decouple their supply chains from this destruction, some businesses have been promising to deliver deforestation-free supply chains... Did they know what they were getting into? To have any hope of achieving such a goal, they need to know how clean their supply chain is. But even large corporations keen to meet their pledges, like Unilever, admit they are ignorant about their own suppliers and what happens in the forests.
Not everyone will be convinced of such claims of ignorance. But Gardner insists it is so. Indonesia, for instance, has more than 2 million small landholders growing about 40 percent of its palm oil. In any case, he says that Trase was developed... to fill that data gap – for companies, but also for those that want to hold companies accountable. “Radical transparency,” Gardner calls it.
A number of NGOs have embarked on systematic efforts to track the ecological footprint of major commodity traders and processors... Optimists hope it may soon be the norm in the corporate world. Investors are demanding it because... “analysts increasingly see a positive correlation between sustainable performance and strong financial performance”...
So what exactly is Trase trying to do? The aim is to map complex supply chains by tapping into publicly available data such as shipping bills of lading, corporate statements, and customs and tax records, along with information published by transport companies, warehouses, refiners, producers, and traders. The trick is then to overlay maps of the geography of production and trading with maps of the geography of deforestation. The guilty parties can then be named, and hopefully shamed into mending their ways.
The first supply chain to come under Trase’s microscope is Brazilian soy. Soy is one of the world’s most widely traded international commodities. Brazil produces around 30 percent of the global crop, and exported 73 million tons last year, more than any other country. In a world with fast-rising demand for meat and dairy products, soy is an essential source of feed for farm animals... But that level of data detail is not enough for anyone interested in the environmental impact of such trades. Some Brazilian soy is sustainably produced; most is not. Gardner wants to know the precise source of the commodity, and what happened on the land before soy was planted.
“The supply chain data is already there. We simply stitch it together... For example, port documents will detail that Cargill is exporting a shipment of soy that originated from Mato Grosso. With data sets on the ownership of soy silos in that state, we can bring in other trade data to narrow down the origin of the soy to a specific municipality.”
In all, Trase has tracked 320,000 unique soy supply chains in Brazil, involving more than 400 companies, dozens of ports, and hundreds of importers, all linked back to one of the 2000 or so municipalities that grow soy, and each with its unique ecological history. The data is still incomplete... “but we can now begin to link specific actors to deforestation. We go from having a supply chain for soy to a supply chain for deforestation”...
For instance, Cargill and ADM, another major trader with a zero deforestation commitment, operate in municipalities where 72,400 hectares of deforestation is “linked specifically to soy expansion in the Cerrado,” according to Trase’s analysis. That does not necessarily mean they are responsible for that deforestation, but it raises questions about their role on the soy frontline. These are questions that, equipped with the new data, both NGOs and the corporations themselves can now ask.
Government regulators could also use such information in the future. The European Union is considering an Action Plan on Deforestation that would crack down on agricultural commodities implicated in deforestation from European markets. Adoption of this plan is urgent. Europe may have a reputation for caring about the environment, says Lake, “but our analysis shows that the EU’s deforestation footprint for soy in the Brazilian Cerrado is actually as big as that of China, which people talk about far more”...
Next is beef. Forest 500, in its 2016 report, identified the cattle industry as still globally “the largest commodity driver of deforestation,” with only 16 percent of companies it surveyed having policies to avoid beef raised on recently deforested pastures. After that, Gardner will target palm oil... Malaysian palm oil companies are now expanding into Africa... If Trase can crack the supply chains of those companies, then maybe the forests of Africa can be saved.
How do you “shift the focus from feeding people to nourishing them”? According to a recent short article in Nature, there are ten things to do, and one of the, fixing metrics, Take, for example, maize (corn).
Until very recently, complete characterization of the megagenomes of conifers has remained elusive. The diploid genome of sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana Dougl.) has a highly repetitive, 31 billion bp genome. It is the largest genome sequenced and assembled to date, and the first from the subgenus Strobus, or white pines, a group that is notable for having the largest genomes among the pines. The genome represents a unique opportunity to investigate genome “obesity” in conifers and white pines. Comparative analysis of P. lambertiana and P. taeda L. reveals new insights on the conservation, age, and diversity of the highly abundant transposable elements, the primary factor determining genome size. Like most North American white pines, the principal pathogen of P. lambertiana is white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola J.C. Fischer ex Raben.). Identification of candidate genes for resistance to this pathogen is of great ecological importance. The genome sequence afforded us the opportunity to make substantial progress on locating the major dominant gene for simple resistance hypersensitive response, Cr1. We describe new markers and gene annotation that are both tightly linked to Cr1 in a mapping population, and associated with Cr1 in unrelated sugar pine individuals sampled throughout the species’ range, creating a solid foundation for future mapping. This genomic variation and annotated candidate genes characterized in our study of the Cr1 region are resources for future marker-assisted breeding efforts as well as for investigations of fundamental mechanisms of invasive disease and evolutionary response.
IRRI is celebrating the 50th anniversary of IR8, one of the more important crop varieties ever produced by plant breeders, with a neat interactive timeline of the history of its development and impact.
You remember our recent short blog post on the Culinary Breeding Network’s Variety Showcase? Well, you can now hear all about it on Jeremy’s latest Eat this Podcast, in which he talks to Lane Selman, the organizer.
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