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Names are not enough: a molecular-based information system is the answer
2016-06-03

Description: Department of Plant Sciences staff Tags: Department of Plant Sciences staff

Prof Wijnand Swart (left) from the Department of
Plant Sciences at the UFS and Prof Pedro Crous
from the Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures (CBS),
in the Netherlands.
Photo: Leonie Bolleurs

South Africa is the second-largest exporter of citrus in the world, producing 60% of all citrus grown in the Southern Hemisphere. It exports more than 70 % of its citrus crop to the European Union and USA. Not being able to manage fungal pathogens effectively can have a serious impact on the global trade in not only citrus but also other food and fibre crops, such as bananas, coffee, and cacao.

The Department of Plant Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS) hosted a public lecture by Prof Pedro W. Crous entitled “Fungal Pathogens Impact Trade in Food and Fibre: The Need to Move Beyond Linnaeus” on the Bloemfontein Campus.

Prof Crous is Director of the world’s largest fungal Biological Resource Centre, the Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures (CBS), in the Netherlands. He is also one of the top mycologists in the world.

Since the topic of his lecture was very pertinent to food security and food safety worldwide, it was co-hosted by the Collaborative Consortium for Broadening the Food Base, a multi-institutional research programme managed by Prof Wijnand Swart in the Department of Plant Sciences.

Reconsider the manner in which pathogens are identified

Prof Crous stressed that, because international trade in products from agricultural crops will expand, the introduction of fungal pathogens to new regions will increase. “There is therefore an urgent need to reconsider the manner in which these pathogens are identified and treated,” he said.

According to Prof Crous, the older Linnaean system for naming living organisms cannot deal with future trade-related challenges involving pests and pathogens. A system, able to identify fungi based on their DNA and genetic coding, will equip scientists with the knowledge to know what they are dealing with, and whether it is a friendly or harmful fungus.

Description: The fungus, Botrytis cinerea Tags: The fungus, Botrytis cinerea

The fungus, Botrytis cinerea, cause of grey mould
disease in many fruit crops.
Photo: Prof Wijnand Swart

Embrace the molecular-based information system

Prof Crous said that, as a consequence, scientists must embrace new technologies, such as the molecular-based information system for fungi, in order to provide the required knowledge.

He presented this very exciting system which will govern the manner in which fungal pathogens linked to world trade are described. This system ensures that people from different countries will know with which pathogen they are dealing. Further, it will assist with the management of pathogens, ensuring that harmful pathogens do not spread from one country to another.

More about Prof Pedro Crous


Prof Crous is an Affiliated Professor at six international universities, including the UFS, where he is associated with the Department of Plant Sciences. He has initiated several major activities to facilitate global research on fungal biodiversity, and has published more than 600 scientific papers, many in high impact journals, and authored or edited more than 20 books.

 

 

Biography Prof Pedro Crous
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B


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