Genetic diversity of Mycosphaerella fijiensis, causative agent Black Sigatoka disease on bananas
06 / 2003 - 06 / 2007
Website Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures
Banana, being the 4th largest staple food crop of the world, is threatened by a disease that may have similar implications as blight did to potatoes 150 years ago. This disease, Black Sigatoka, caused by Mycosphaerella fijiensis, has become a global epidemic in the last decade. Commercial growers keep the disease at bay by almost weekly fungicide applications, which have serious health implications for banana workers (doubled rate of leukaemia and birth defects, 20% sterile males), and the build up of fungicide resistance. In order to come up with better ways of disease control, it is imperative to have a better understanding of the biology of this fungus. In this study we aim to determine the genetic diversity in populations of M. fijiensis, by screening a global set of isolates with various molecular markers. The focus will be at applying multilocus sequencing, SSRs and AFLPs. These tools used can be applied to estimate the population dynamics, gene flow and amount of sexual reproduction versus asexual reproduction (anamorph Paracercospora fijiensis). In the second phase of this project a more in-depth approach will be set up to identify the genes involved in pathogenesis. In collaboration with Plant Research International, an EST bank will be set up that can be linked to the M. graminicola research effort, which eventually must result in a micro-array to enable us to unravel the aetiology of Black Sigatoka.