Fungal pathogens represent a large and economically significant challenge to crops worldwide. The challenge is so great, in fact, diseases caused by fungal pathogens can cause crop losses of 10% to 20% (worth $100 billion to $200 billion) each year.

Historically, a variety of biological, chemical, and mechanical methods have been used to fight fungal diseases, said Roger Wise, a plant geneticist with the USDA's Agricultural Research Service Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research unit in Ames, Iowa. Lately, though, researchers have focused on molecular methods to develop disease-resistant crops, which would reduce the need for, and damage caused by, chemical fungicides.


Plant geneticist Roger Wise examines barley while researching ways to fight diseases caused by fungal pathogens. (Photo courtesy of Roger Wise.)

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