Wheat archive links long-term fungal pathogen population dynamics to air pollution

S. J. Bearchell, B. A. Fraaije, M. W. Shaw, Bruce D.L. Fitt

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125 Citations (Scopus)


We used the PCR to study the presence of two plant pathogens in archived wheat samples from a long-term experiment started in 1843. The data were used to construct a unique 160-yr time-series of the abundance of Phaeosphaeria nodorum and Mycosphaerella graminicola, two important pathogens of wheat. During the period since 1970, the relative abundance of DNA of these two pathogens in the samples has reflected the relative importance of the two wheat diseases they cause in U.K. disease surveys. Unexpectedly, changes in the ratio of the pathogens over the 160-yr period were very strongly correlated with changes in atmospheric pollution, as measured by SO2. emissions. This finding suggests that long-term, economically important, changes in pathogen populations can be influenced by anthropogenically induced environmental changes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5438-5442
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2005


  • mycosphaerelia graminicola
  • quantitative PCR
  • Phaeosphaeria nodorum
  • septoria diseases
  • sulfur


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