Global food and fibre security threatened by current inefficiencies in fungal identification

Pedro W. Crous, Johannes Z. Groenewald, Bernard Slippers, Michael J. Wingfield

    Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

    71 Citations (Scopus)


    Fungal pathogens severely impact global food and fibre crop security. Fungal species that cause plant diseases have mostly been recognized based on their morphology. In general, morphological descriptions remain disconnected from crucially important knowledge such as mating types, host specificity, life cycle stages and population structures. The majority of current fungal species descriptions lack even the most basic genetic data that could address at least some of these issues. Such information is essential for accurate fungal identifications, to link critical metadata and to understand the real and potential impact of fungal pathogens on production and natural ecosystems. Because international trade in plant products and introduction of pathogens to new areas is likely to continue, the manner in which fungal pathogens are identified should urgently be reconsidered. The technologies that would provide appropriate information for biosecurity and quarantine already exist, yet the scientific community and the regulatory authorities are slow to embrace them. International agreements are urgently needed to enforce new guidelines for describing plant pathogenic fungi (including key DNA information), to ensure availability of relevant data and to modernize the phytosanitary systems that must deal with the risks relating to trade-associated plant pathogens.This article is part of the themed issue 'Tackling emerging fungal threats to animal health, food security and ecosystem resilience'.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20160024
    JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


    • cryptic diversity
    • DNA barcoding
    • fungal taxonomy


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