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Phytophthora (from Greek phytón, “plant” and phthorá, “destruction, destruction”; “the plant-destroyer”) is a genus of plant-damaging Protisten of the Oomycetes (water moulds). Heinrich Anton de Bary described it for the first time in 1875.
Phytophthoras are mostly pathogens of dicotyledons, and are relatively host specific parasites. Many species of Phytophthora are plant pathogens of considerable economic importance. Phytophthora infestans was the infective agent of the potato blight that caused the Great Irish Famine (1845-1849). Plant diseases caused by this genus are difficult to control chemically, thus resistant cultivars are grown as a management strategy. Research beginning in the 1990s has placed some of the responsibility for European forest die-back on the activity of imported Asian Phytophthoras.
Other important Phytophthora diseases are:
Phytophthora is sometimes referred to as a fungal-like organism but it is classified under a different kingdom altogether: Stramenopila (previously named Chromista). This is a good example of convergent evolution: Phytophthora is morphologically very similar to true Fungi yet its evolutionary history is quite distinct. In contrast to Fungi, stramenopiles are more closely related to plants than animals. Whereas Fungal cell walls are made primarily of chitin, stramenopile cell walls are constructed mostly of cellulose. Ploidy levels are different between these two kingdoms as are biochemical pathways.
Phytophthoras may reproduce sexually or asexually. In many species, sexual structures have never been observed, or have only been observed in laboratory matings. In homothallic species, sexual structures occur in single culture. Heterothallic species have mating strains, designated as A1 and A2. When mated, antheridia introduce gametes into oogonia, either by the oogonium passing through the antheridium (amphigyny) or by the antheridium attaching to the proximal (lower) half of the oogonium (paragyny), and the union producing oospores. Like animals, but not like most true Fungi, meiosis is gametic, and somatic nuclei are diploid. Asexual (mitotic) spore types are chlamydospores, and sporangia which produce zoospores. Chlamydospores are usually spherical and pigmented, and may have a thickened cell wall to aid in its role as a survival structure. Sporangia may be retained by the subtending hyphae (non-caducous) or be shed readily by wind or water tension (caducous) acting as dispersal structures. Also, sporangia may release zoospores, which have two unlike flagella which they use to swim towards a host plant.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Phytophthora". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|