Researchers have revived samples of a fungus that causes the wilting of coffee trees – tracheomycosis. The goal of scientists is to find out how the disease developed in the past and how to prevent its spread today.
The wilt disease of coffee trees is caused by a fungus that has wrecked plantations in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1920s and still affects two of the most popular coffee varieties: Arabica and Robusta.
Tracheomycosis is a vascular lesion of the xylem, accompanied by wilting of plants. It is caused by fungi and mushroom-like organisms that develop and spread in the water-carrying part of the host plant – the trachea.
The defeat of the vessels of the xylem is characteristic of many species of fungi belonging to the ascomycete type and the type of anamorphic fungi. The causative agents of tracheomycosis by type of nutrition are necrotrophs.
A common symptom that unites tracheomycosis of different etiology is wilting caused by damage to the vascular system of plants.
A new study shows that the fungus infecting plants likely increased its ability to infect coffee trees. He acquired genes from a closely related fungus that causes wilting disease in a wide range of crops, including Tropical Race 4 (TR4).
Disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4) – “Tropical race” – refers to the fungal that affects banana plantations. It has been known since the 50s of the last century after an outbreak on the banana plantations of Panama in Central America.
Researchers are confident the new data will help farmers reduce the risk of new strains of disease. For example, they suggest not to plant coffee with other crops or to prevent the accumulation of plant residues that may contain a related fungus near trees.
The team revived cryogenically frozen specimens of the fungus that causes coffee wilt disease. There have previously been two major outbreaks of the disease, in the 1920s and 1950s and between 1990 and 2000. Moreover, this fungus still wreaks havoc on plantations. For example, in 2011, 55,000 robusta coffee trees died from wilting in Tanzania, resulting in the destruction of 160 tons of coffee. That’s the equivalent of 22 million cups of coffee.
Scientists note that the findings can also be applied to other cultivated plants.