Fungal menace

The medicinal neem tree is under attack from an hitherto unknown fungus

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

The evergreen neem tree, Azadirachta indica is the most researched tree in the world. It is known for its medicinal properties and is an vital ingredient in the production of fungicides and insecticides. Effective against a wide array of pathogens, the tree is today ironically under attack by a hitherto unknown fungus. The neem tree is succumbing to the fungus. Phomopsis species are known to produce a number of diseases in wild as well as in cultivated trees in the tropical regions.

Karnataka is the third largest producer of neem seeds in India. Surveys conducted over the last four years by the department of botany studies, University of Mysore, reveal that the tree is being attacked by a unknown species of Phomopis fungus. It has been since then named as Phomopis azadirachtae .

The disease is fatal. In the severely infected trees, there is almost an 100 per cent loss of fruit production. Trees of all ages and sizes in many parts of Karnataka are affected. Although the neem tree is affected by several microorganisms, Phomopis azadirachtae is the most dangerous of all, said S S Bhat, M K Sateesh and N S Dewaki, who conducted the survey and research.

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