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Microbiology Australia Microbiology Australia
Issue 1

First Words

With more than 7 million mouths to feed, world food security (insecurity would be a better description), is high on the international radar. In his article, Les Baxter points out that the term food security means that sufficient quantities of food must be available, that people must have sufficient resources to obtain nutritious food, that it is used appropriately, and that a consistent food supply is not subject to sporadic or periodic shocks. Plant pathogens adversely affect all of these factors. They reduce the quantity and quality of food, ...

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Future planning for capacity in plant pathology

We are all familiar with the three constants of life: death, taxes – and strategic planning. As professionals, we are frequently getting involved in developing vision statements, strategies for change, action plans, performance indicators, impact metrics, review processes and so on. Strategic planning goes in cycles. At the national level we are now engaged in a new exercise, setting broad directions for the future of rural research and, in particular, biosecurity science. This is likely to impact on the future of professionals in microbiology ...

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Pre-breeding for disease resistance in wheat – the stagonospora nodorum blotch example

‘Pre-breeding’ is an alternative term used for ‘genetic enhancement’, and in recent times it has become an essential, planned part of all plant breeding activities. The main objectives of pre-breeding for disease resistance are to increase the efficiency of breeding by providing breeding programs with (i) molecular markers linked to effective disease resistance genes, (ii) improved germplasm and associated genetic knowledge that enhance resistance expression and diversity, (iii) improved parental stocks which can be readily utilised within bree...

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Role of plant pathogens in food insecurity

Plants are the primary means by which food is produced for living organisms. These include the species Homo sapiens – all 7 billion plus of us. But we are far from being the only species that depends on plants. There are many herbivores with which we compete, some of the most devastating being insects. Moreover, plants deemed useful as sources of food may be outcompeted by other plants of less practical use: these are often regarded as weeds. More insidiously, there are many infectious agents ranging from viroids, consisting of a few hundred nu...

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Microbial threat– a growing challenge for plant biosecurity

Australia is relatively free from many of the plant pathogens that seriously impact on agricultural production and natural environment in other countries. This provides a valuable competitive advantage for Australia’s plant industries in terms of securing market access and maintaining lower production costs. The increasing growth in global trade, travel and tourism is exposing Australia’s plant industries and environment to ever-increasing risk of exotic microbial pathogens. At risk are approximately $14 billion per annum in crop exports, the e...

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How plants defend themselves

Unlike animals, plants cannot flee, fight or hide from predators. Plants lack mobile defender cells or an adaptive immune system and have instead evolved defences based on pre-formed barriers and inducible cellular responses regulated by local and systemic signals. The interaction between pathogen effectors and these defences sets up an intriguing molecular arms race between plants and pathogenic fungi, bacteria, viruses, viroids and nematodes.

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Annual ryegrass toxicity – an animal disease caused by toxins produced by a bacterial plant pathogen

Annual ryegrass toxicity (ARGT) is an acute and often fatal neurological disease of livestock caused by consumption of annual ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) seed heads infected with the bacterium Rathayibacter toxicus (formerly Clavibacter toxicus and Corynebacterium rathayi). These toxic seed heads may be present in pasture, crop stubbles or provided feed (hay, grain, crop fines or pellets).

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Fusarium: a ubiquitous fungus of global significance

Fusarium is one of the most economically important genera of fungal plant pathogens, causing significant crop losses and contamination of grain by mycotoxins on a global basis. Some species also cause infections (mycoses) of humans and other animals. Fusarium includes many species, a significant number of which cause a wide range of plant diseases that affect many crops including major food and fibre crops such as wheat, barley, maize, bananas and cotton, often with devastating socio-economic impact. The diseases are often insidious and extreme...

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How pathogens attack plants

Plants are well protected against microbial invasion by an epidermis of tightly packed cells with rigid, cellulose-strengthened walls covered by a waxy cuticle on the aerial parts. A great diversity of bacteria and fungi come in contact with plants but most never invade. However, some microbes of all types are highly adapted as invasive parasites of particular plant species, often causing disease, and these are reviewed here.

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How the misidentification of a pathogen can cause an emergency response – a real life case study of an Australian grain export incident

In February 2004, a shipment of Australian wheat was rejected by an importing country that alleged the grain contained ustilospores of Tilletia indica. This allegation caused all wheat trading and shipments from Australia to be stopped. At this time, Australian wheat was worth A$4 billion and provided 14% of the world's export demand. How did this misidentification occur? And why is correct identification of pathogens so important when trading with other countries?

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New Phytophthoras in Western Australia’s natural ecosystems

Phytophthora spp. are recognised as important plant pathogens. Ten new and genetically diverse species, not previously reported from elsewhere, have recently been described from natural ecosystems in Western Australia (WA): Phytophthora multivora1; P. elongata; P. thermophila, P. gregata, P. gibbosa, P. litoralis; P. arenaria, P. constricta; P. fluvialis; and P. amnicola. They were identified by DNA sequencing of recent and historical isolates from the WA Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). Several additional new taxa await descri...

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Death by toxin net blotch disease of barley

Barley net blotch is a destructive disease which results in loss of yield (as high as 40%) and quality in barley grain, the world’s fourth largest crop. In Australia, the economic losses caused by net blotch disease have been predicted to be greater than $62 million per year.

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Cryptic fungal species unmasked

The word cryptic is derived from the Greek adjective kruptós which means hidden. Morphologically indistinguishable species that have been revealed by molecular phylogenetic methods, and 37ultimately only recognised by their DNA sequences, are referred to as cryptic species. The importance of cryptic species for plant pathologists is that they may have significant differences in the severity of diseases they cause, host range and geographic distribution. It is these differences that are of concern to many biosecurity agencies, particularly in Au...

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Food Security in Southeast Asia

Food security, defined by the 1996 World Food Summit as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”, has been identified as a major issue for Southeast Asian countries. In the majority of developing countries the most effective means of ensuring food security is broad-based economic growth in agriculture. Public support for agriculture has waned significantly since the mid-1980s. Australia has been a leader in the recent resurgence of aid investment in agriculture. This...

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Picture this ... crime scene investigators walk into a room, using forensic tape on the victim's clothing and personal belongings. This evidence is bagged and transported to a laboratory for processing. Chain of evidence is kept at all times, and all steps used in the processing are documented. Can we find the perpetrator of this horrendous crime? Can we prevent further damage? On TV, crime scene investigation (CSI) machinations are now a common theme, and inevitably there is a machine that goes ‘ping’ saying that the results are ready. But is ...

ASM Affairs, March 2012

BacPath 11, Molecular Analysis of Bacterial Pathogens Conference, Wyong, NSW, 25–28 September 2011; ASM – NZMS Postgraduate Research Travel Award; Burnet Hayes Postgraduate Award; ABSANZ 2011 Inaugural Annual Conference Report

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