Virus Undercuts Fungus’s Attacks on Wheat

Dan This Land of Ours, USDA-ARS, Wheat

A virus could help fight fungus on wheat. That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.

A healthy wheat head (left) stands in contrast to one inoculated with Fusarium graminearum, which shows severe symptoms of scab.
USDA/ARS Photo by Keith Weller.

A naturally occurring virus co-discovered by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and university scientists may offer a way to undermine a costly fungal threat to wheat, barley, and other small-grain crops.

The fungus is the chief culprit behind a disease called Fusarium head blight, or “scab.” Scab diminishes the yield and quality of the crops’ grain. Under wet, humid conditions, the scab fungus can release a toxin that can contaminate the grain, reducing its point-of-sale value or leading to outright rejection depending on end use.

Now, however, a team of scientists with the ARS Application Technology Research Unit in Wooster, Ohio, and South Dakota State University in Brookings (SDSU) has discovered a strain of a fungal virus, or that disables the fungus’s ability to make the toxin. The discovery could potentially lead to another tool to use in avoiding costly losses to scab and its contamination of grain destined for livestock and human consumption.

Listen to Sabrina Halvorson’s This Land of Ours program here.

Virus Undercuts Fungus’s Attacks on Wheat

Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.