EDITOR'S CHOICE IN PLANT SCIENCE
RASBAK/WIKIMEDIA COMMONSThe paper
X. Yu et al., “Extracellular transmission of a DNA mycovirus and its use as a natural fungicide,” PNAS, 110:1452-57, 2013.
The white mold caused by Sclerotinia sclerotiorum looks like a harmless cotton ball, but the fuzz can massacre more than 400 species of plants, including rapeseed, soybean, bean, potato, and carrot. S.sclerotiorum is estimated to cause upwards of $200 million in crop damage per year in the U.S., but an effective treatment is still out of reach.
Plant pathologists have fought similar fungal pathogens—most notably chestnut blight—using fungi-attacking viruses called mycoviruses. But scientists thought that mycoviruses couldn’t survive outside a fungal host, making it tricky to use them as fungicides—until now. Recently, Daohong Jiang, at the...