Keeping up with the plant killers

Alpine meadows north of Gothic. Colorado.
Fungal mimicry of plants — “fake” flowers triggered by the rust Puccinia monoica on Boechera stricta.
Biological processes altered in pseudoflowers.
The rust fungi also threaten our crops, such as wheat. And look at all the billions of spores they produce. I received the rust spore cloud image from Brande Wulff. The photo was taken in Australia but its origin is unclear. The rust spore covered boot is from a tweet by @WestBredWheat.
Potato blight caused by Phytophthora infestans (photo courtesy of Vivianne Vleeshouwers, Wageningen University).
The time-lapse video of Phytophthora infestans infection of potato was produced by Remco Stam. For more on the history and genomics of the strain of P. infestans that triggered the Irish famine, see Yoshida et al. eLife 2013. See also this PlantVillage blog post for general background on the oomycetes.
Phytophthora infestans (red) infecting plant tissue. This beautiful shot of the hemibiotroph Phytophthora infestans was taken by Sebastian Schornack.
How do pathogens infect plants? They secrete effectors to modify host plants.
Effectors — sensus Richard Dawkins in “The extended phenotype: the long reach of the gene”. The example of phytoplasma effector SAP54, which transforms flower development, is from the lab of Saskia Hogenhout.
Plants have an immune system! They are resistant to most pathogens because effectors often “trip the wire” and activate immunity.
GMO blight-resistant potato expected to help over 300,000 farmers in Uganda.
I received the image of the potato farmer from Dr. Tarlochan Thind, Punjab Agricultural University. He is quoted in this story about potato late blight in India.
Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna.
CRISPR accelerates plant breeding cycles.
CRISPR crops — removing genes for fungal resistance.
CRISPR bushy tomato for urban gardeners. But still susceptible to mildew.



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Biologist; passionate about science, plant pathogens, genomics, and evolution; loves travel, food, and sports; nomad and hunter-gatherer.