Scientists discover an elusive plant pathogen in Mexico

Left panel: Legnara with colleagues and growers from Tlaxcala, Mexico collecting soil samples. Right panel: Pérez-López in a canola field in Quebec, Canada. Credit: Authors

For years, scientists and online databases assumed the presence of white rot – one of the main diseases in cruciferous crops (such as broccoli, cabbage and kale) – in Mexico. However, no evidence to support this assumption existed until a team of researchers, led by Mauricio Luna and Legnara Padrón-Rodríguez of the University of Veracruz, put on their detective hats to pinpoint the root pathogen.

Since Mexico is the fifth largest producer of broccoli in the world and a major supplier to the eastern United States and Canada, determining the presence of the pathogen is important for preparing for potential outbreaks. Legnara Padrón developed the detection methodology during COVID-19, leading the authors to consider what might happen if a future pandemic affected plants. The methodology involved working with cruciferous growers in Mexico and collecting soil samples from three categories of fields: fields in production, fields without cruciferous crops for up to a year, and fields that had stopped growing cruciferous crops. They were able to isolate the rootworm pathogen after growing a variety of cross-crop plants in the collected soil. In the roots of the infected plants, typical symptoms of wilting appeared, and the results were confirmed using molecular methods.

Now researchers can investigate whether, as suspected, the downy mildew pathogen has inhibited the growth of cruciferous crops in certain Mexican fields. The new areas affected by the disease have been added to ClubrootTracker, an online tool developed by the group of Dr. Pérez-López to trace the rootworm pathogen. Furthermore, their results will significantly improve future management of the fungus, preserving the economy of cruciferous crops in Mexico and the worldwide supply of these important vegetables.

Corresponding author Edel Pérez-López comments that “their results open the door to more exciting research, such as studying the genome of Mexican isolates of P. brassicae, its geographic distribution and evolution compared to other North American isolates. The strategy that “What we’re looking at may help detect rootworm pathogens in other geographic areas, or potentially, other soil-borne pathogens.”

This study embodies the importance of listening to growers. Their knowledge, combined with science, can reveal answers that improve plant disease management and increase agricultural income.

The research was published in Plant disease.

New interactive tool will help farmers curb the spread of rootworms

More information:
Legnara Padrón-Rodríguez et al, Plasmodiophora brassicae in Mexico: From anecdote to fact, Plant disease (2022). DOI: 10.1094/PDIS-11-21-2607-RE


Provided by the American Phytopathological Society

citation: Scientists discover an elusive plant pathogen in Mexico (2022, September 12) retrieved on September 12, 2022 from

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