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.
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.