Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world and the fourteenth largest producer of wheat; in 2021 alone, the country produced 14.3 million tons (t) of wheat on 12.1 million hectares (ha). Despite this impressive figure, wheat yield in the country falls below average at 1172.5 t/ha compared to 3474.4 t/ha globally.
Research into wheat diseases in Kazakhstan has primarily revolved around airborne fungal foliar diseases, such as stem rust, leaf rust and stripe rust, which can be devastating for farmers and their crops. However, the effects of fungi relating to wheat root and crown root were yet to be examined – these diseases affect yields, stands and grain quality due to infections that cause damping-off, blight, necrosis, and dry rotting.
Using plant samples taken during the 2019 growing season, scientists from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) conducted a quantitative survey to determine the distribution of this fungi. Using morphological and molecular tools on 1,221 samples from 65 sites across the central, eastern, and southeastern region, scientists found that Bipolaris sorokiniana and Fusarium acuminatum were the most predominant fungal species isolated.
In total, 74 isolates from 16 species were tested, revealing that F. culmorum and F. pseudograminearum, B. sorokinaiana, Fusarium sp., R. solani, F. redolens, C. spicifera, C. inaequalis, and N. orvzae were virulent fungi.
Results show the diverse spectrum of pathogenic fungal species linked to wheat crown and root rot in Kazakhstan and is highly likely to be the first report from the country on the presence of F. seudograminearum, Fusarium sp., C. spicifera, and C. inaequalis.
With this new data, scientists can develop mitigations to prevent crop loss and improve wheat yield across Kazakhstan.
Cover photo: The scientists from Turkey researching root and crown rot in Kazakhstani wheat: Abdelfattah A. Dababat (CIMMYT), Mustafa Imren (Bolu Abant Izzet Baysal University), Göksel Özer (Bolu Abant Izzet Baysal University) and Rauan Zhapayev. (Photo: Abdelfattah A. Dababat/CIMMYT)