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Falling leaves in Autumn: How will warmer autumns impact inter-species interactions?


James Fortune, Final year PhD student at University of Hertfordshire discusses how warmer autumns will impact inter-species interactions in diseases of oil seed rape. Phoma stem canker is a major disease of oilseed rape caused by Leptosphaeria maculans and L. biglobosa. It is responsible for causing annual yield losses worth £80-100M in the UK, despite the use of resistant cultivars and fungicides. L. maculans has often been associated with causing the more damaging stem basal cankers, and the less damaging upper stem lesions to be caused by L. biglobosa.

This difference in lesion location on the plant has been attributed to differences in the timing of the ascospore release in Autumn. James said, “Previous studies have shown that L. biglobosa ascospores are released later in the season than L. maculans, but more recent investigations, including mine, have reported that ascospores of both species are frequently being released at similar times and we are finding both pathogens at the stem basal cankers”.  The release of these ascospores is known to be affected by temperature so this change in the patten of spore release could be a result of a warmer Autumns.

My work has also demonstrated that there are changes in phytotoxin production and disease development because of increased inter-species interactions and competition. Therefore, when L. maculans and L. biglobosa ascospores are released at similar times, phoma leaf spot lesions may appear later or be smaller, resulting in a later application of fungicide creating a new challenge for timely plant protection.

“With warmer Autumns, the internal clocks of the fungi are shifting, showing how climate change can impact pathogen interactions and may cause unforeseen challenges in the future.”

REAP 2021: Changing Time(s) for Agriculture10th November 2021

Imagine a world where agriculture is not constrained by time. The ability to manage and manipulate time is increasing and REAP 2021 will explore the advances in technology and breakthroughs in science that is making this possible.

REAP brings together people from across the agri-tech ecosystem who believe that innovation is the engine for change. The conference bridges the gap between producer needs and technology solutions and showcases exciting agri-tech start-ups.