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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Potential biological control agents found for fungal diseases of soybean.

A new research carried out in the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) suggests we take a closer look at viruses because viruses are everywhere. They affect all forms of life, from complex mammals down to the mere fungus. We may not give much thought to fungal viruses, or mycoviruses. It turns out there are good reasons to care about mycoviruses. Fungal diseases account for approximately 10 percent yield losses annually in corn and soybean. When certain mycoviruses infect those fungi, they can become less virulent -- good news for crop yields. These forms were the targets of a recent investigation by Domier and his colleagues,the research team. The team extracted genetic material, DNA and RNA, from five major types of plant-pathogenic fungi and used computers to search for genetic sequences that resembled those of known viruses. "We found a lot of sequences that were very similar to previously described fungal viruses, but also found some encapsidated forms that were similar to plant viruses. Those were the ones they were most interested in, because they reduce fungal virulence and can be transmitted outside the fungus. This key combination may make it possible for these viruses to be used as biological control agents. "Some mycoviruses have been shown in laboratory or greenhouse studies to be very effective biocontrol agents," Domier says. One day, the encapsidated forms they discovered may be sprinkled on a field to kill pathogenic fungi and improve soybean yield. This study was published in the Journal of Virology.