Fusarium has been responsible for eye infections from contact lenses, devastating losses of Australian cotton crops and threatening the commercial banana business in Central America.
Strains of this fungus pose a threat to the food supply, economies and -- more rarely but more dangerously -- human health.
On June 21, researchers representing nearly 30 countries are coming to Kansas State University to better understand Fusarium and strategies for dealing with the fungus. The Fusarium Laboratory Workshop, now in its 10th year, is a community effort, said John Leslie, head of K-State's department of plant pathology and one of the workshop leaders. A book produced for the workshop is used worldwide and is now in its third printing.
With colleagues, Leslie has identified and named four species of Fusarium, with several others on the way. He said that more than 1,000 researchers worldwide work on Fusarium, a common fungus found on plants, in soil and in the air worldwide.
"The simplest rule is that if it is green, there is a Fusarium that will be able to attack it," he said.
Leslie said that the potency of the fungus lies in the diseases that it causes and because it produces mycotoxins, a couple of which are on the U.S. federal government's select agent list.
"Mycotoxin levels often are included in trade agreements on grain and farmers can get docked at the elevator if the contamination level is too high," he said.
Leslie and colleagues initiated this incarnation of the workshop in large part to teach researchers and professionals how to identify a basic set of 25-30 species of the fungus. Traditionally, scientists relied on what they saw under the microscope, which can be somewhat subjective.
Leslie said that using DNA analysis to identify different strains has helped answer questions of more than 100 years standing while, at the same time, raising a w
|Contact: John Leslie|
Kansas State University