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Scientists awarded $5.5 million for wheat, rice blast research
Date:4/24/2013

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Kansas State University researcher Barbara Valent and a team of colleagues have been awarded $5.5 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop novel disease control strategies for two closely-related diseases in rice and wheat the latter of which has wreaked havoc in some South American wheat growing areas.

Valent, a university distinguished professor of plant pathology, is leading a team of Kansas State University and national and international collaborators who are studying ways to protect Kansas and U.S. wheat fields from the deadly disease known as wheat blast. The team is also studying ways to protect U.S. rice from the deadly rice blast disease. Unlike wheat blast, rice blast is well established in the United States and in all other rice-growing countries.

"This disease wheat blast spreads quickly," Valent said. "It has not been found outside South America, but if we don't prepare by learning and educating others about detection, and look for ways to curb it if it does strike the U.S., the consequences could be enormous."

Both wheat blast and rice blast are explosive diseases under favorable weather conditions.

Blast disease, caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae is a major constraint to global rice production and is an emerging and very serious threat to U.S. wheat, Valent said. Rice blast research over the past 20 years has provided a wealth of understanding on the molecular basis for blast resistance in rice.

"Our goal is to leverage this knowledge as part of an integrated approach to improve U.S. rice production and protect the nation's wheat crop," Valent said.

Wheat blast was first discovered in Brazil in 1985, and has since been found in Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. Three years ago it cut production in Brazilian wheat states by up to 60 percent in some areas.

Rice blast caused significant crop losses in fields in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas i
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Contact: Barbara Valent
bvalent@k-state.edu
785-532-2336
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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