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Wilhelm Schäfer, a German professor welcomed at INRA Versailles-Grignon Centre.

INRA Versailles-Grignon welcomes Professor Wilhelm Schäfer (University of Hamburg). Specialist in plant pathology, he joins the unit for Biology and Risk Management in Agriculture - Plant Pathogenic Fungi.

Professor Wilhelm Schäfer (University of Hamburg, DE). © INRA, W. Schäfer
Updated on 09/04/2014
Published on 09/01/2014

Internationally-recognized expert in the molecular analysis of the infection process of Fusarium graminearum on wheat, Wilhelm Schäfer is welcomed at INRA Versailles-Grignon Centre.

 

The Fusarium head blight of wheat

Caused by a fungus of the species Fusarium , the Fusarium head blight (FHB) is one of the most devastating diseases of wheat and other cereals (barley, oats, rye ...). It is responsible for billions of dollars in economic losses, in production areas as varied as Northern Europe, the United States, Australia, Ukraine, China and the Middle East.

Control of this disease is mainly based on agricultural practices, fungicide application before flowering and cultivar resistance. Only a few resistance mechanisms have been identified in wheat: type I resistance confers resistance to initial infection, while type II resistance inhibits the propagation of the fungus at the wheat heads. Despite efforts to select varieties combining strong resistance and high performance, to this day there is no completely resistant wheat cultivar available. Currently the research on the biology of F. graminearum aims to better understand the infection process and reveal the weak points of the life cycle of this pathogen to develop control methods which can protect against wheat infection. A better understanding of the mechanism of resistance, in particular type II is necessary to improve the resistance at the time of kernel development.

 

An international collaboration

Internationally-recognized expert in the molecular analysis of the infection process of F. graminearum on wheat, Wilhelm Schäfer has developed pioneering studies on the cell biology of this process, using genes expressing fluorescent proteins under the control of a promoter of interest. Today, the Professor has joined the research unit Biology and Risk Management in Agriculture - Plant Pathogenic Fungi (Bioger-CPP) for six months (April-October 2013). During his stay, he is working particularly on the infection process and mechanisms of wheat resistance by combining cytological and molecular approaches.

The hosting of Professor Wilhelm Schäfer is part of a wider collaboration between the team he leads in the Department of Plant Pathology and Genetics of the University of Hamburg in Germany and INRA in a context of international cooperation between researchers from different fields (molecular biology of fungi, cellular biology linked to infection, plant pathology, or plant resistance).

During his stay, Wilhelm Schäfer will meet teams from INRA Bordeaux-Aquitaine, Clermont-Ferrand and Dijon Research Centres working on FHB.