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Science AMA Series: Neil Brown here to talk about how fungal pathogens sense the ‘touch and taste’ of their plant hosts and if this can this be used to fight crop disease. AMA!
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  • r/Science AMAs

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Hello Reddit! I’m Neil Brown, a fungal biologist and a BBSRC Future Leader Fellow at Rothamsted Research in the UK. In my school leavers book, my friends were asked “What will Neil end up doing?” They answered “saving trees”, to which I laughed. But it appears that they knew more about me than I did, as I now devote my days to understanding plant diseases, contributing to the knowledge and innovation needed to develop new ways to protect our crops. New approaches to control fungal diseases that threaten our food security and health, through the contamination of crops with harmful toxins, are urgently needed. To achieve this, I am asking: how does a fungal pathogen landing on a plant decide if it is a suitable host; how does it know where to infect or where to find the best source of food; and how does it know when to deploy different virulence strategies, such as the secretion of toxins or hydrolytic enzymes? These are the questions I hope to answer in my study of fungal ‘touch and taste’ receptors, similar to those found on our tongue. I will focus on Fusarium, a fungal pathogen that cause disease on wheat, barley, rice and maize. The goal is to determine whether these fungal ‘touch and taste’ receptors are biological targets that can potentially be drugged to prevent a pathogen from causing crop diseases and toxin contamination. It would be great to discuss my research with you. So go ahead. Ask me anything. I will be back at 11am ET (4pm BST). In the meantime, you are welcome to find out more about me, and my international experiences as an early career researcher, in a blog entry I recently wrote for Rothamsted Research’s ‘A day in the life of a Research Scientist’ blog series (http://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/day-life-dr-neil-brown). Hi everyone! Thank you all for this broad range of interesting questions. I will check back later to answer a any I missed. All the best, Neil