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PRESS RELEASE: A microscopic view of ergot infecting wheat wins science photography award

10 March 2011

Proving that agricultural science can be visually stunning as well as informative an image of the ergot fungus (Claviceps purpurea) growing inside wheat stigma hairs is a winning entry at the Wellcome Image Awards, an annual science and medical photography competition.

The image shows the ergot hyphae growing through the same tissues of the wheat flower as a growing pollen tube would do during pollination. The wheat stigma hairs are only 25 micrometres, or 0.025mm, wide.

NIAB’s Dr Anna Gordon and Cambridge University’s Dr Fernan Federici beside their winning image of the ergot fungus infecting wheat stigma hairs    Take a microscopic view of the ergot fungus (light pink colour) infecting wheat stigma hairs (blue colour) – the winning photo from NIAB and Cambridge University in the Wellcome Image Awards

The photo was taken by Dr Anna Gordon, a molecular plant pathologist at NIAB, and Dr Fernan Federici from Cambridge University, with a confocal microscope 30 hours after the wheat plants had been infected. It is part of a BBSRC-funded project investigating the biological interaction at a transcriptomic level between ergot and wheat during infection and looking for sources of natural resistance.