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UK project to fight brew blight

Siliguri, March 14: The Royal Society of Chemistry, UK, is all set to turn its attention to blister blight and brown blight — two fungal plant diseases that affect tea bushes in north Bengal.

In a research project funded by the Society, Bishwanath Chakraborty, the dean, faculty of sciences at North Bengal University, and Luis Mur of University of Wales, Aberystwyth, will investigate the metabolomic changes occurring in tealeaves affected by Exobasidium vexans (causing blister blight) and Glomerella cingulata (brown blight).

Metabolomics is the study of metabolic pathways, which are a series of chemical reactions occurring within a cell, catalysed by enzymes.

“The pathogens attack the two-leaves-and-bud section of the plant, which are plucked for tea manufacturing,” Chakraborty told The Telegraph. “They cause tealeaves to lose their flavour and taste. Earlier the diseases used to be concentrated mainly in the hills, but of late they have spread in the plains as well.”

Chakraborty said the diseases are caused by changes taking place in the environment. “Tea being a perennial plant has to withstand prolonged exposure to environmental fluctuations,” said Chakraborty.

“The project will also try to come up with solutions to the problem,” the senior scientist said.

Chakraborty, who is also a fellow of the Society, said the solutions would try to counter the pathogen attacks both “internally and externally”.

“In the former case, our objective will be to find helpful organisms which can be added to the soil in the form of bio fertilisers so that they are assimilated by the plant and its resistance system is strengthened from roots to the leaves. In the second case, we would be externally spraying organisms in the form of bio-organic pesticides directly on the leaves,” he added.

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