To date, 300 gene markers have been sequenced, and researchers are aiming to sequence the pathogen's entire genome, which probably contains about 15,000 genes, by the summer of 2006.
According to the Agricultural Research Service, the DOA's chief scientific research agency, M. graminicola causes major wheat damage worldwide and costs American wheat farmers $275 million a year in yield losses. If left unchecked, the fungus causes lesions in wheat leaves that interfere with plant growth and grain formation.
Stephen Goodwin, an ARS plant pathologist, and Gerrit Kema, a plant pathologist from Plant Research International in Wageningen, The Netherlands, are leading the effort to sequence the M. graminicola genome. The researchers believe that mapping M. graminicola genes can help scientists understand how the fungus infects crops.
Information gleaned from the M. graminicola genome might also be helpful in controlling other fungi that cause similar leaf-spotting diseases in bananas, citrus, strawberries, cereal crops, and other plants, the ARS said. These other fungi belong to the same family of fungus as M. graminicola.