Tracking Airborne Wheat Disease
A new computer model is the first to quantitatively track--and predict--the spread of airborne fungal crop diseases.
Wheat is the second most important food crop in the world after rice, and by 2050 we'll need 60 percent more of it to feed the world. A fungal disease called stem rust can affect wheat wherever it's grown; it can destroy the crop in an entire field, and it can knock down yield up to 70 percent over large areas. The fungal spores that transmit the disease can spread over regions and even continents, but the disease's airborne spread has been hard to track. A team led by two University of Cambridge researchers combined field surveys, global meteorological data, and computer modeling of airborne spore dispersion to create the first quantitative model of stem rust spore transmission, they reported recently in Nature Plants. The model identified specific airborne routes of spore dispersal, and itcan be used in other geographic areas and for other types of plant pathogens.
Source: Nature Plants doi:10.1038/s41477-017-0017-5