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Incidence of head blight complex on wheat and other cereals

Salina Banu: Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute

<div>Infection on wheat head creates panic among the wheat growers, as well as researchers, in Bangladesh. The severity of head infection creates head blight and increases devastating impact on yield and grain quality due to unwanted black-pointed, shrivelled, and infected seeds. Substantial economic loss has occurred in the last couple of years in wheat production of Bangladesh due to the severity of head blight for blast disease, affecting the livelihood of millions of small-scale farmers. To improve the understanding of head infection, comprehensive field survey and studies were conducted in agro-ecological zones (AEZ) 8, 9, 21, 22, and 28. These AEZs have previous records of severe rice blast incidences. In this study, we have focused on details of pathogens on the head of wheat and other cereals, and revealed that head infection was not only caused by <em>Magnaporthe </em>spp. <em>– </em>the causal organism of blast disease. The other causal organisms were <em>Fusaium </em>spp, <em>Bipoaris</em> spp., and <em>Alternaria</em> spp<em>. </em>Again, infection by <em>Bipolaris </em>spp<em>.</em> was highly variable. The symptoms of head blight caused by these pathogens are easily confusing. The pathogens often co-exist on the same head and in the same field. The results highlight the need for deploying proper assessment of the causal organisms from local fields for effective disease management strategy. Incidences of head blight complex, likely due to climate variability, are challenging for cereal production and a serious threat for regional food security in South Asia.</div>