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fungi

Employing Wheat's Bacterial Partners to Fight a Pathogen

Fusarium head blight is a devastating fungal disease affecting wheat and barley crops worldwide. According to the American Phytopathological Society, this disease has cost U.S. wheat and barley farmers more than $3 billion since 1990. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists, together with land managers and other scientists at research universities, are taking a variety of approaches to solving this problem. These include breeding resistant cultivars, using massive disease-forecasting models and applying fungicides during critical junctures in crop growth to prevent fusarium head blight. Recently, many scientists have also become interested in the idea of employing microbial species that already live on and inside crop plants to do the dirty work of controlling disease epidemics.