Understanding an exotic disease: Initiation of sex and infection by the sugarcane smut Ustilago scitaminea (2010–2012)
In 2006 Queensland s sugar industry came under threat from sugarcane smut caused by the fungal pathogen Ustilago scitaminea. Resistant cultivars were developed through pre-emptive breeding, minimising the impact of this incursion. Now that smut is endemic to Australia, we must begin the next round of preparation. U. scitaminea has overcome resistant cultivars in other countries via unknown mechanisms to launch recurring epidemics. We aim to establish a new research initiative targeting an understanding of the molecular basis of host specificity and virulence of U. scitaminea, beginning with an analysis of the link between sex and infection, and providing the first insights into virulence factors of this highly successful pathogen.