Submitted to: Plant Disease
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: July 23, 2008
Publication Date: September 17, 2008
Citation: Rossman, A.Y. 2008. Systematics of plant pathogenic fungi – why it matters. Plant Disease. 92:1376-1386. Technical Abstract: Systematics is the study of biological diversity; more specifically, it is the science that discovers, describes, and classifies all organisms. Taxonomy, nomenclature, and phylogeny are all part of systematics. Scientific names accurately define a set of organisms and are used to communicate about them. As systematic scientists learn more about species or other taxa including the relationships among them, scientific names change to reflect this increased knowledge. Accurately named and precisely defined species reflect what is known about their biology, host range, and geographic distribution with resources available for determining the accepted scientific name of fungal pathogens. Trends in systematics of fungi are presented including the knowledge that: 1) true Fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants; and 2) the Oomycetes are not true Fungi, rather they are most closely related to the yellow-brown algae, and are known as straminipiles or Kingdom Chromista. With increased use of molecular data the higher level taxa of true Fungi are more precisely defined as are fungal genera and species. The asexually reproducing fungi that constitute a majority of plant-associated fungi are being integrated into the phylogeny and genera of the Ascomycota and discussions are in process about how to move toward using only one scientific name for a species with two or more reproductive states. Initiatives such as DNA barcoding of fungi and the Encyclopedia of Life are discussed because of their potential contribution to the accurate identification of fungal pathogens. Given that species names will change and mistakes will be made, the need is emphasized to document research and reports of plant pathogens by depositing cultures and voucher specimens in herbaria.