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How the fungus that can punch through Kevlar becomes a cereal killer

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There’s a microscopic fungus that can starve nations and punch through Kevlar. It causes disease on such as scale that its blight can be seen from space. It’s called Magnaporthe oryzae and it causes a disease known as rice blast. The fungus doesn’t infect humans, but it does kill rice. It kills a lot of rice, destroying up to 30 per cent of the world’s total crop every year – enough to feed 60 million people. Slowly, scientists have worked out how this cereal killer claims its victims.

A rice plant’s woes begin when one of the fungal spores lands on its leaves. As soon as it is surrounded by water, the spore sprouts a dome-shaped structure called the appressorium.

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