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Researchers to use K-State's BSL-3 Lab for $1 million study of fungus threatening wheat crops
Date:1/15/2009

MANHATTAN -- Kansas is lucky that a devastating wheat fungus isn't threatening the state's crops yet. Researchers at Kansas State University are getting $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to keep it that way.

Barbara Valent, university distinguished professor of plant pathology, is leading a group of researchers to study the wheat blast fungus, a pathogen that has become a serious threat in Brazil.

"We don't know if our varieties in Kansas are susceptible, so we want to be prepared," Valent said.

The wheat blast fungus is a close relative of a devastating fungus that has long affected rice crops and another fungus that affects turf grass across the country. In the mid-1980s a close relative of these fungi began affecting wheat in and around Brazil, Valent said.

"It hasn't moved north from South America, but there's the potential that it could," she said. "We don't know where it came from or what effects climate change may have on it."

That's why the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service is providing $999,688 to study the fungus. The K-State researchers from the department of plant pathology include professors William Bockus and James Stack, and Xiaoyan Tang, associate professor. They will be working with Gary Peterson and Kerry Pedley of the U.S Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research Unit, Fort Detrick, Md., and with collaborators from Brazil's Embrapa Wheat group.

Fred Cholick, dean of K-State's College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension, said getting the $1 million grant recognizes K-State's experience in food safety and security in the field of plant health.

"This is what K-State as a land-grant university is all about -- solving problems before they have a global impact," Cholick said. "This is particularly important when you're talking about
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Contact: Barbara Valent
bvalent@k-state.edu
785-532-2336
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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