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CAB Reviews

A reviews journal covering agriculture, global health, nutrition, natural resources and veterinary science

CAB Review

Magnaporthe oryzae, the blast pathogen: current status and options for its control.


Blast disease is one of the major constraints for food production in the world, affecting many crops of agricultural importance. Wheat blast, since it was first report in the mid-1980s, has been responsible for considerable damage on the wheat fields in several South American countries such as Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. Rice blast disease has often been considered as a model for studies on plant-pathogen interactions. Loss of the avirulence gene AVR-CO39 and mutations on the AVR-Pita are significant examples associated with this interaction. The first example is related to the adaptation of Magnaporthe oryzae to the rice crop and the second to the breakdown in cultivar resistance. A large number of genes (about 80 so far) with complete resistance to rice blast have been described, and 13 of them have been cloned. These results, involving avirulence and resistance genes, are important for understanding the biological mechanisms of interaction between pathogen and host, in considering finding strategies to control the disease. There is great concern about the potential spread of the wheat blast pathogen to locations where this disease does not currently occur. There are some wheat-producing regions in the world where wheat blast has not been reported so far, but which have climatic conditions very similar to the regions in South America where wheat blast attacks quite frequently. This situation, in a scenario of climate change, is concerning and demands research action.