Experimental work at Rothamsted research has shown how supporting beneficial fungi could have a role in protecting cereals against take-all.
Vanessa McMillan, co-author and postdoctoral researcher in plant pathology at Rothamsted says: “This work aimed to explore whether wheat genetics can be exploited to help support and potentially build up populations of closely related take-all suppressing fungal species that are known to lower the disease levels caused by the take-all fungus.”
The team collected samples of the beneficial fungus from the fields of Rothamsted Farm and developed a laboratory test to explore their ability to colonise and protect the roots of barley, rye, wheat and the rye/wheat hybrid, triticale. In field trials, the team identified commercial cereal varieties that performed better than others.
“If the ability of wheat cultivars to support and be colonised by natural or introduced populations of beneficial Gaeumannomyces species could be harnessed and exploited, either through a seed dressing or via direct application into a crop’s rooting zone, this could provide a potential biological management strategy for the control of take-all disease in wheat crops,” she adds.