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    Science Can Save Crops, Forests And Endangered Animals By Doing This One Thing
    By News Staff | May 26th 2012 03:59 PM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    More than 600 million people could be fed each year by halting the spread of fungal diseases in the world's five most important crops -  rice, wheat, maize, potatoes and soybeans

    Recent data further suggests that in 70% of cases where infectious disease causes the extinction of a type of animal or plant, an emerging species of fungus is behind the problem. 

    Fungal infections presently destroy at least 125 million tons of rice, wheat, maize, potatoes and soybeans, crops which provide the majority of calories consumed by people. The damage caused by fungi to rice, wheat and maize alone costs global agriculture $60 billion per year. The effects are disproportionately catastrophic for those in the developing world, where 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 per day, and rely most heavily on these low-cost foods.

    Diseases like rice blast, soybean rust, stem rust in wheat, corn smut in maize and late blight in potatoes affect more than just productivity; many have wide ranging socio-economic costs. Trees lost or damaged by fungi fail to absorb 230-580 megatons of atmospheric CO2, equivalent to 0.07% of global atmospheric CO2, an effect the scientists say is likely to be leading to an increase of the greenhouse effect.


    The solution to all these problems is science, free of environmental scare marketing.  Specifically, being able to genetically modify crops so that they can resist fungus without harmful chemicals. But Europe will need to overcome its entrenched anti-science mentality. Until then, scientists continue to improve chemical solutions. Bayer CropScience, for example, received the first registration for its new penflufen fungicidal seed treatment product (Emesto) in the United Kingdom, for use in potato cultivation. In testing, it showed outstanding efficacy against black scurf (Rhizoctonia solani), and significantly enhanced quality and the marketable yield.  Penflufen belongs to a new generation of SDH (succinate dehydrogenase) inhibitors. Products based on SDH inhibitors have seed invigoration and root-growth-promoting effects, offering farmers excellent disease control, not only against black scurf but also against silver scab and other diseases – at low application rates. 


    Emesto SDH (succinate dehydrogenase) inhibitors save potatoes.  Credit: Bayer CropScience

    That's a big win for hungry people worldwide.

    In animals, new fungal diseases increasingly threaten the existence of over 500 species of amphibian, as well as many endangered species of bees, sea turtles and corals. In the US alone, studies suggest the decline in bat populations caused by white nose syndrome fungus will lead to a dramatic rise in the insect crop-pests that the bats would otherwise eat, and a cost to agriculture of more than $3.7 billion per year.

    Dr Matthew Fisher, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, and a corresponding author of a new study of fungal disease, said, "The alarming increase in plant and animal deaths caused by new types of fungal disease shows that we are rapidly heading towards a world where the 'rotters' are the winners. We need strive to prevent the emergence of new diseases as we currently lack the means to successfully treat outbreaks of infection in the wild."

    Fungal diseases have been increasing in severity and scale since the middle of the 20th century, largely thanks to trade and travel, and now pose a serious danger to global food security, biodiversity and ecosystem health. The threat to plants from fungal infections has now reached a level that outstrips that posed by bacterial and viral diseases. The authors calculated that fungal infection could damage of up to 900 million tons of food if disease epidemics were to hit all the top five food crops in the same year. Although the chances of this happening are very slight, they estimate that this scenario would cause a global famine leaving over 4.2 billion people starving.

    Corresponding author, Sarah Gurr, Professor of Molecular Plant Pathology at the University of Oxford, said: "Crop losses due to fungal attack challenge food security and threaten biodiversity, yet we are woefully inadequate at controlling their emergence and proliferation. We must have better funding channeled into the fight against fungal disease."

    Citation: MC Fisher et al. "Emerging fungal threats to animal, plant and ecosystem health." Nature, 12 April 2012. DOI 10.1038/nature10947

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    The solution to all these problems is science, free of environmental scare marketing.

    Although the chances of this happening are very slight, they estimate that this scenario would cause a global famine leaving over 4.2 billion people starving.
    I thought the point was to avoid scare marketing from both sides.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    No, no, scare marketing by one side is essential to telling the truth.
    Gerhard Adam
    OK, send in the Mayans.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Free Samples are offered for a limited time so when they are posted please take advantage of the offer before it is gone. Look online for "Official Samples" where I was able to get healthy product samples.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Citation: MC Fisher et al. "Emerging fungal threats to animal, plant and ecosystem health." Nature, 12 April 2012. DOI 10.1038/nature10947 
    The abstract for the paper cited above in this article clearly says :-
    Abstract  The past two decades have seen an increasing number of virulent infectious diseases in natural populations and managed landscapes. In both animals and plants, an unprecedented number of fungal and fungal-like diseases have recently caused some of the most severe die-offs and extinctions ever witnessed in wild species, and are jeopardizing food security. Human activity is intensifying fungal disease dispersal by modifying natural environments and thus creating new opportunities for evolution. We argue that nascent fungal infections will cause increasing attrition of biodiversity, with wider implications for human and ecosystem health, unless steps are taken to tighten biosecurity worldwide. 
    A review by Richard Bardgett and Franciska De Vries from Lancaster University, UK of the same paper cited in this article says :-
    This paper highlights how emerging infectious diseases caused by fungi increasingly form a threat to plant and animal populations in both natural and managed systems. It also explores how this will have wider implications for human health and food security. First, by analysing two databases (ProMED and HealthMap) and searching literature, the authors showed that disease alerts are increasing, and that, compared to other pathogens, fungi comprise the highest threat to both animal-host and plant-host species. They then illustrate key biological features of fungal disease dynamics and how they have a higher probability to lead to host extinction than other diseases. 
    Finally, the authors suggest potential causes and mechanisms for the increase of fungal diseases, including accelerated evolution of virulence of pathogenic fungi, environmental change, and human transport and trade. 
    This paper is a must read because it brings together and synthesises information from a range of fields, including epidemiology, population ecology, environmental change and microbial ecology. Moreover, it is easy to read and has the potential to change the way scientists think about fungal disease, highlighting the importance and relevance of the topic for a range of fields. 
    The editor's summary of the cited paper at www.nature.com says :-
    The threat from emerging pathogenic fungi
    Fungal infections have caused widespread damage in crops and dramatic decline in populations of amphibians and bats. In recent years newly emerged pathogenic fungi have been reported in corals, bees and many plant species. In this Review, Matthew Fisher and colleagues warn that human activity is intensifying fungal-disease dispersal by modifying natural ecosystems and creating new opportunities for evolution. Unless steps are taken to reduce the risk of these infectious diseases spreading globally, the authors suggest, fungal infections will cause increasing attrition of biodiversity, with wider implications for human and ecosystem health. The authors' recommendations include better monitoring of emerging diseases, stringent biosecurity controls on international trade and intensified research on the interactions between hosts, pathogens and the environment.
    If you read Wikipedia's article on Genetically Modified Organisms you will find no references whatsoever to fungus or any genetically modified existing organisms that have been made fungus resistance or modified in any way to contain a fungicide, though according to this article some transgenic barley has been modified to be fungus resistant, so where does any scientist recommend that the one and only answer to this problem is to use GMO's or that as the title of this article by News Staff boldly claims "Science Can Save Crops, Forests And Endangered Animals By Doing This One Thing"? 

    In the Wikipedia article, GMO's are promoted as a means for producing Transgenic plants that have been engineered to possess desirable traits such as :-
    resistance to pests, herbicides, or harsh environmental conditions, improved product shelf life, and increased nutritional value. Since the first commercial cultivation of genetically modified plants in 1996, they have been modified to be tolerant to the herbicides glufosinate and glyphosate, to be resistant to virus damage as in Ringspot virus-resistant GM papaya, grown in Hawaii, and to produce the Bt toxin, an insecticide that is allegedly non-toxic to mammals.
    As far as I can see, no one anywhere in this article or in its reviews has suggested genetically modifying these affected plants or animals to make them fungi resistant as a solution to this problem. Instead they have blamed human activity such as logging and intensive farming and even the overuse of existing fungicides as being responsible for intensifying fungal disease dispersal, by adversely modifying natural environments and thus creating new opportunities for evolution and also by killing beneficial fungi, of which there are many. Environmental destruction and change, human transport and trade have all been identified as causes of this accelerated evolution of virulence of pathogenic fungi for which there are currently very few remedies

    So why has News Staff decided that :-
    The solution to all these problems is science, free of environmental scare marketing.  Specifically, being able to genetically modify crops so that they can resist fungus without harmful chemicals. But Europe will need to overcome its entrenched anti-science mentality. 
    The authors of the cited paper have recommended tightening of biosecurity worldwide, a recommendation that this article by News Staff has completely ignored. Does someone on the News Staff simply have a GMO promoting agenda or are they anti biosecurity? If so, they should make that clear and not imply that the authors of this paper are only recommending genetically modifying wild and domestic plants and animals as a solution to this massive, spreading, worldwide fungus problem.

    The supplementary information provided for the cited paper shows that numerous fungi in the form of rust,  blast,  blight,  wilt,  sigatoka,  bunt, smut,  light  leaf  spot,  jarrah,  oak  death,  blue  stain,  aspergillosis,  blastomycosis, cryptococcosis,  foot  fungus,  histoplasmosis,  mucormycosis,  paracoccidioidomycosis, sporotrichosis,  thrush,  valley  fever,  white  nose  syndrome,  fusarium  keratitis, dermatophytosis, zygomycosis, basidiobolomycosis, chromoblastomycosis, lobomycosis  are adversely affecting and even killing many domestic and wild plants and animals, too numerous to mention here. So how can only scientists and only their GMOs somehow fix all of this? 
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine