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Research Project: Enhancing Plant Protection through Fungal Systematics

Location: Mycology and Nematology Genetic Diversity and Biology Laboratory

Title: Foliar pathogenic fungi: growing threats to global food security and ecosystem health

item UDAYANGA, DHANUSHKA - University Of Sri Jayewardenepura
item MIRIYAGALLA, SHANEYA - University Of Sri Jayewardenepura
item HERATH, INDUNIL - University Of Sri Jayewardenepura
item Castlebury, Lisa
item FERDINANDEZ, HIMASHI - University Of Sri Jayewardenepura
item MANAMGODA, DIMUTHU - University Of Sri Jayewardenepura

Submitted to: Ceylon Journal of Science
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/2/2020
Publication Date: 11/16/2020
Citation: Udayanga, D., Miriyagalla, S.D., Herath, I.S., Castlebury, L.A., Ferdinandez, H., Manamgoda, D.S. 2020. Foliar pathogenic fungi: growing threats to global food security and ecosystem health. Ceylon Journal of Science. 49(5):337–353.

Interpretive Summary: Fungi occur on many different plant hosts with some species causing disease and other co-existing with their host plants without causing disease. Because many species have similar microscopic appearances, they are often difficult to identify correctly. Additionally fungal species often are found in new locations on different hosts when scientists or plant pathologists are actively scouting for diseases. In this review the major groups of fungi causing plant diseases are discussed with examples provided from each of the groups. Representative species are discussed and images are provided. This review article will be used by extension agents, plant breeders, plant pathologists, and plant quarantine officials as well as students to enhance their awareness of plant pathogenic fungi and to reinforce the need for continued vigilance in the protection of plants from destructive fungi to keep agriculture safe in America and around the world.

Technical Abstract: Globally, foliar pathogenic fungi cause serious losses of annual and perennial crops, ornamentals, landscape plants and forest trees. Plant pathogens that infect foliage are a diverse assemblage of fungi representing both phyla: Ascomycota and Basidiomycota. Although most of the species found on living leaves have been well studied by mycologists and plant pathologists, recent molecular mycological studies have remarkably enhanced the current understanding of species numbers and their evolutionary relationships. The impact of global climate change, the increasing international exchange of plant material and the lack of proper phytosanitary practices have resulted in the potential re-emergences of formerly known destructive fungi species, infecting new hosts in new geographic locations. Routinely inspecting diseased plants and accurately identifying and naming causative agents are vital for mitigating the impact of invasive and other non-indigenous pathogens on crops and native flora. It is also necessary to characterize foliar pathogenic fungi based on molecular phylogeny, morphology, pathogenicity and the comparative analysis of fungal genomic data. Therefore, this minireview provides an overview of prevalent foliar pathogenic fungi, their diversity and economic impact, while emphasising emerging and destructive species that threaten global food security and ecosystem health.