Grant boost for sugar beet disease research

Sugar beet leaf showing symptoms of powdery mildew (left) - grey-white mycelium, and (right) - Rust

Sugar beet leaf showing symptoms of powdery mildew (left) - grey-white mycelium, and (right) - Rust (uromyces betae) - orange/brown pustules. - Credit: Archant

Researchers are set to benefit from a £100,000 grant to help them combat sugar beet crop infections in the UK.

A powdery mildew disease trial carried out by the British Beet Research Organisation in Suffolk

A powdery mildew disease trial carried out by the British Beet Research Organisation in Suffolk - Credit: Archant

The Plant & Microbial Genomics Group at research institute the Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC), which is based at Norwich Research Park, will use the money from the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO) to help it identify sources of infection and reinfection.

Sugar production from sugar beet accounts for 20% of the world’s supply, but erysiphe betae, a sugar beet powdery mildew, can cause the loss of a fifth of the crop yield.

At the moment, the main methods for controlling it are fungicidal treatments and a range of partially resistant varieties.

However, despite annual surveys for disease, little is known about the source of the infection and the diversity of the disease species.

TGAC submitted a successful proposal entitled: “Discovering the source of sugar beet infection and re-infection by Erysiphe betae” to win the grant award.

The research project will use a hundred E. betae genome sequences from both an agricultural and wild setting, contributed via the BBRO and wider sugar beet industr.

Most Read

Scientists will analyse the pathogen to design genetic markers that will be used in a rapid detection technology to identify infection in sugar beet species.

The research team will also look at a secondary beet pathogen, called rust, or Uromyces beticola, which will allow it to gain further insight into the sugar beet pathogen for possible future research.

Dr Mark McMullan, population and evolutionary biologist in the Plant & Microbial Genomics Group at TGAC, said: “Evolution of powdery mildew in the wild may drive adaptation to crop hosts and cause losses in agriculture.

“By analysing the population genetics of pathogens that span both wild and agricultural ecosystems we hope to shed light on the causes of sugar beet infection and also on the causes of agricultural host-pathogen evolution.”