What is it about?

Through several experiments, the researchers discovered that sugarcane plants infected by F. verticillioides produce volatile compounds that are irresistible to pregnant females of the moth Diatraea saccharalis. Attracted by these compounds, the moths lay their eggs in the plants. When the caterpillars hatch, they penetrate the stems and are themselves attracted by the volatile compounds, which they ingest. When they enter the pupal stage and develop into adult moths, they are already carriers of the fungus.

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Why is it important?

The fungus Fusarium verticillioides is one of the causes of red rot, the most serious sugarcane disease. Losses average around USD 1 billion per harvest in Brazil alone. The traditional approach to the etiology of this disease is that it is triggered by Diatraea saccharalis, a moth usually referred to as the sugarcane borer. In the caterpillar stage, this insect bores into the stem of the plant, which is later infected opportunistically by the fungus. However, a study conducted in Brazil by the University of São Paulo's Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture (ESALQ-USP) has turned this model upside down, showing that the trigger is not the insect but the fungus.


Previously, the moth was the target and the idea was that the fungus merely took advantage of holes made in the stem by its caterpillars. We discovered this is not the case. The fungus manipulates the insect in order to penetrate the plant and manipulates the plant to attract more insects

Full Professor José Mauricio Simões Bento
Universidade de Sao Paulo Campus de Piracicaba

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Fungal phytopathogen modulates plant and insect responses to promote its dissemination, The ISME Journal, June 2021, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1038/s41396-021-01010-z.
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