For years, as much as 30% of the world's rice crop has been devastated annually and rendered useless by a type of fungus. Recent breakthroughs suggest that scientists have finally found a way to put an end to this.
The team of scientists, an international group led by the University of Exeter in Southwest England, UK, showcased how a chemical inhibition of a single protein in what's commonly referred to as rice blast prevents its spreading inside rice leaves. Instead, it is left trapped within a single plant cell. This causes the fungus to be a lot less effective as opposed to devastating millions of rice crops every year.
Unfortunately, the finding is merely a breakthrough in terms of how scientists understand the disease. It is not meant to be looked at as a cure nor can the process be applied outside laboratories. At least, not yet.
Rice blast is one of the biggest threats to the world's food security. In fact, studies suggest that the amount of rice it destroys every year is enough to feed at least 60 million people. The fungus spreads in rice plants by invasive hyphae, breaking through from cell to cell.
To understand how rice blast spreads, researchers used chemical genetics to mutate the protein PMK1 and allow the fungus to squeeze through pit fields, which allowed them to trap fungus inside a cell and prevent the spread.
In their attempt to understand the fungus better, they found out more about MAP kinase. This enzyme is apparently behind the invasive growth of the dangerously effective fungus.
The international research team hopes that their recent breakthrough will allow them to identify how the said enzyme chooses its targets and how the fungus functions in order to find how to prevent the fungus from being so effective.