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Open Science and International Collaboration to Tackle the Fearsome Wheat Blast in Asia and Beyond

Sophien Kamoun: The Sainsbury Laboratory

<div>Wheat blast, caused by <em>Magnaporthe oryzae Triticum</em> pathotype (MoT), is one of the emerging threats to wheat production worldwide. It was first emerged in Parana state of Brazil in 1985 through host jump from a local grass and then spread to several South American countries. In February 2016, the first outbreak of wheat blast in Bangladesh devastated more than 15,000 hectares of wheat. In a rapid response to a new threat of food security of Bangladesh, we (31 researchers from 4 continents) applied field pathogenomics and open data sharing approaches and determined the genetic identity and origin of the disease within weeks. In phylogenomics analyses, the Bangladeshi MoT isolate was shown to be closely related to the highly aggressive wheat-infecting South American MoT strain, suggesting that the wheat blast fungus was most likely introduced from South America. This year wheat blast was detected in the new areas of Bangladesh and also in West Bengal of India. Genetic resources for the resistance breeding are limited and fungicide application seem unreliable. A larger scale international collaboration and application of novel approaches are needed to mitigate this enemy of food security. To share our data with global scientific community, we uploaded the whole genome sequences of a large number of wheat blast fungal strains in open wheat blast website (, which were isolated from the infected field of Bangladesh. Whole genome sequences of four potential wheat blast biocontrol bacteria were also uploaded. We are currently working on genome editing of the <em>S</em>-genes in wheat by using CRISPR/Cas9 technique to develop new blast resistant wheat varieties for Bangladesh. We are dedicated to share our data through the said website and urge scientific community to work together for combatting this enemy of wheat before it becomes catastrophic in Asia.</div>

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