fungi mushrooms mycology the fifth kingdom

Plant Pathology
How do some fungi attack plants?

How do some fungi attack plants?

Fungi 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.

These '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 cells.

The 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.

You can see the effects of attacks by some plant pathogenic (disease-causing) fungi at Chapter 12 on this website.

Much more detailed information can be found in the book The Fifth Kingdom

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