can't make their own food, so they must somehow get it from
other organisms, living or dead. Some fungi can digest things
like dead leaves and wood. Others set up mutually beneficial
relationships with living plants (see
mycorrhizas - Chapter 17). But a third group discovered
how to attack plants and steal food from them.
'pathogenic' or disease-causing fungi get inside the plant
either by making a hole in its skin (epidermis), or by growing
in through the plant's breathing holes (stomata). Then they
either poison and kill the plant cells before absorbing
food from them, or simply steal nutrients from the living
spores of some fungi come through the air and attack leaves,
making dead spots or even killing the whole leaf. Some fungi
live in the soil and enter roots. They can either block
the water-conducting cells or kill them, causing the plant
to wilt. In many cases the plants is seriously damaged or
may even die. So such pathogenic fungi can threaten our
crops. The study of these fungi is called plant pathology.
can see the effects of attacks by some plant pathogenic
(disease-causing) fungi at Chapter
12 on this website.
more detailed information can be found in the book and on