Scientists from KFRI, BHU and BSI discover new species of fungus in Kerala

First collected and identified in Peechi Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary, the fungus has been named ‘Paramyrothecium indicum’.

Kerala Forest Research Institute, Thrissur (Image Source: KFRI)Kerala Forest Research Institute, Thrissur (Image Source: KFRI)

Sanjay | January 15, 2024 | 03:18 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Scientists of the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), Thrissur; Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi, and Botanical Survey of India (BSI) Andamand and Nicobar Islands, have discovered a new species of fungus in Kerala. Named after India, ‘Paramyrothecium indicum’ (Ascomycota, Stachybotryaceae), is a new species of phytopathogenic fungus, which exists as a parasite on plants and is associated with emerging leaf spots on the wild hibiscus plans near Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary in Thrissur district of Kerala.

This discovery of Paramyrothecium indicum, based on “morpho-cultural characteristics and multigene molecular phylogenetic analyses”, was recently reported in the Netherlands-based journal, Persoonia.

Shambhu Kumar, senior scientist and head and Mufeeda KT Junior Research Fellow of the forest pathology department of KFRI, S Mahadevakumar, scientist of BSI, and Raghvendra Singh, senior assistant professor, department of botany, BHU, Varanasi, have jointly made the discovery.

Paramyrothecium indicum

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), USA, Phytopathogen fungi are responsible for “serious plant diseases which might negatively affect crop productivity”.

Paramyrothecium indicum draws its name from India where it was first collected and identified. So far, Paramyrothecium has only 21 globally-accepted species as per Index Fungorum, an international project to index formal names of all fungi.

Most of the Paramyrothecium are phytopathogens, a parasite surviving on a plant host.

Importance of Paramyrothecium indicum

The scientists have pointed out that the Western Ghats region of Kerala is renowned for its abundant fungal diversity, including numerous species endemic to the specific area.

“The climatic conditions, rainfall, and phanerogamic vegetation are congenial for the growth and development of different kinds of pathogenic and non-pathogenic fungi. This finding underscores the importance of ongoing exploration and research into the diverse flora, fauna, and fungi in the Western Ghats,” the scientists said in their statement.

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They explained that Paramyrothecium leaf spots are a type of fungal disease that can affect a variety of plants. To control and manage these leaf spot diseases, they said, surveillance and early detection of causal agents is essential.

kfri-phytopathogenic-fungi-kerala-scientists-featured-imageParamyrothecium leaf spots (Image Source: KFRI)

“The disease can be prevented by pruning and removing infected leaves to reduce the source of infection. Because this infects all plant leaves within a short time once climatic condition is favourable. Some biological preventive solutions are available in the market which can be used for control of this disease. In severe cases, fungicides can be very effective for the control of Paramyrothecium leaf spots,” they said.

The scientists have also observed that “some species of Paramyrothecium produce secondary metabolites with bio-herbicidal potentials” and, therefore, may find application in controlling weeds. However, this characteristic requires further exploration.

“Following the discovery of new fungus species, we will do further research on them. We will try to find out what type of toxins they secrete. We have not done a detailed study of the species. We discovered this based on morpho-cultural characteristics and multigene molecular phylogenetic analysis. This is a new species for global micro-science. We will do a detailed study later to study its epidemiology and prevention methods,” Kumar, senior scientist and head of forest pathology department of KFRI told Careers360.

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