Spores of Tilletia trabutii Jacz., 1893

Object: Spores of Tilletia trabutii Jacz., 1893

Common name: Smut of barley grass (Critesion spp.) BRIP 46328

Collected near Minyip, Victoria in 2004 from barley grass (Critesion murinum subsp. leporinum)

Plant Pathology Herbarium, Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries, Brisbane, Australia

EMu user since 2002

KE client since 1997

june_small.jpgThe smut fungi are plant pathogens that notably affect cereal crops. In the mid 18th Century, French scientist Mathieu du Tillet (1714-1791) demonstrated that wheat smut was caused by contaminated seed and could be controlled by sterilising the seed coat with copper sulphate. There are now known to be over 1,500 different species of smut fungi worldwide, attacking over 4,000 different plant species.

june2_small.jpgFor many years the smut on barley grasses in Australia and elsewhere was thought to be Tilletia contraversa J.G.Kühn, a smut that causes dwarf bunt of winter wheat in Europe and North America. However, dwarf bunt of wheat has never been seen in Australia, possibly as the optimal conditions for infection of wheat by T. contraversa occur during winter under extended snow cover, a climatic phenomenon not experienced by Australian winter wheat crops.

This raised the issue of whether isolates of T. contraversa on barley grasses belonged to the same species as those causing dwarf bunt of wheat. Molecular and morphological studies have now shown that the smut on barley grass in Australia is not the same as T. contraversa; its correct name is T. trabutii (pictured).

Acknowledgments: Images from Shivas, R.G., Beasley, D.R. and Vánky, K. (2008). Smut Fungi of Australia. Lucid CD-ROM
ABRS, Canberra; CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne
SEM by Desley Tree