May 13, 2010
May 13 - Crinipellis perniciosa
Too bad it isn't Halloween yet - today's parasite is Crinipellis perniciosa, a fungus that causes a disease known as "Witches' Broom Disease" in cacao, the plant that we get chocolate from. The basidiospores of this fungus are spread by wind and if they invade younger, developing seed pods, can cause the plant to never produce any cocoa beans. The fungus can invade many other portions of the cacao plant as well, and if they get into the meristem, they will produce vegetative "brooms" that inspired their name. Its invasion into the Bahia region of Brazil caused the production of cocoa to plummet by more than half. Researchers are now searching for plants in other regions that might harbor genes that confer resistance genes, so that they can breed them to the Brazilian plants.
Image is from Invasive.org.