Wheat fields in Bangladesh were devastated with a new disease to the region known as a wheat blast. This new disease damaged over 15,000 hectares of wheat fields where wheat is the second most important food crop. Wheat blast is a fungal disease caused by Magnaporthe oryzae. This fungus is known to be pathogenic of rice, but apparently it is also pathogenic on wheat. Unlike in rice, where M. oryzae attacks leaves, the fungus damages the head of the wheat and it is difficult to manage with fungicides. M. oryzae has been found in South America. In 2009 the outbreak of this disease caused one-third loss of wheat in Brazil. Since it has been found in South America some of the regions stopped growing wheat. In the United States, wheat blast was found in Kentucky in 2011, but with vigorous surveillance it was stopped from spreading to other places.
In South America scientists noticed that hot and humid conditions were favorable for M. oryzae. Such conditions are also present in Bangladesh, and this disease could migrate to other parts of Asia where they have similar conditions. A main management strategy in Bangladesh is to burn infected fields and explain to farmers not to sow seeds from infected areas. Bangladesh officials are hoping to find more tolerant wheat varieties to this fungus and increase agricultural practices such as seed treatments and crop rotation. It is unknown how this fungus got into Bangladesh. One of the hypotheses is that the strain of the infected wheat was brought from South America. Another hypothesis is that M. oryzae infects wild grasses and disease jump from grass to wheat, which believe happened in Kentucky where rye-grass strain infected wheat.
The outbreak of plant and human diseases is not rare and with rapid data sharing scientist from UK hope to prevent wheat blast spread in Asia. Scientists from Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK have created an open wheat blast website where they would like to encourage scientists and researchers from around the world to share data to combat this disease. Their hope is to get a more accessible genome data of this fungus as well as different strains of M. oryzae. This website can provide useful information to combat the outbreak of M. oryzae in Bangladesh and prevent other sudden outbreaks in other parts of the world.
To read more about wheat blast in Bangladesh please visit original paper which was published in October, 2016 https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12915-016-0309-7