Researchers marshal technology in bid to thwart fungal outbreak in Central America. - Where there is coffee, there is ‘coffee rust’. But the long stalemate between growers and the fungus behind the devastating disease has broken — with the fungus taking the advantage. As one of the most severe outbreaks ever rages through Central America, researchers are reaching for the latest tools in an effort to combat the pest, from sequencing its genome to cross-breeding coffee plants with resistant strains. Caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix, coffee rust generally does not kill plants, but the Institute of Coffee of Costa Rica estimates that the latest outbreak may halve the 2013–14 harvest in the worst affected areas of the nation. This outbreak is “the worst we’ve seen in Central America and Mexico since the rust arrived” in the region more than 40 years ago, says John Vandermeer, an ecologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, who has received “reports of devastation in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico”.