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Editorial: Emerging Fungal Plant Pathogens

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The occurrence of new and emerging phytopathogenic fungal pathogens is on the rise but has largely been overlooked because of inadequate detection methods (Fisher et al., 2012). Factors associated with such a phenomenon can be attributed to plant pathogens expanding beyond their normal geographic ranges due to globalization and international commerce, adaptive potential, climate and ecological changes as well as modern agricultural practices such as modified land uses and the profuse use of antifungal agents in agricultural practices (El-Sayed and Kamel, 2020). Emerging fungal pathogens are an increasing threat to ecosystems, global health, food security and global economy but remain neglected and understudied despite their potential devastating impact on economically important crops (Fones et al., 2020). These emerging pathogens can act as “true reservoirs” for future disease epidemics, but there are still numerous scientific challenges and research gaps to be resolved as to how these fungal pathogens are transmitted, evolving, adopting novel ecological strategies, switching hosts and causing infections. There is published evidence that common saprophytic fungi belonging to Cryptococcus, Aspergillus and Penicillium species are now emergent as potential plant pathogens. The latter can represent a major threat to staple crops such as rice, wheat, maize and potatoes either during cultural practices or during the post-harvest/storage stages (Alshannaq and Yu, 2017). If these pathogens are not detected and accurately identified in a timely matter and targeted disease-management strategies are not implemented, global food security could potentially be dramatically affected (Fones et al., 2020). To generate and promulgate better scientific insights into this new area of research, we proposed the Research Topic “Emerging Fungal Plant Pathogens”. In this Research Topic, we accepted 10 articles, including 5 reviews and 5 original articles that focus on fungal characterization of emerging plant pathogenic fungi based on polyphasic approaches, their functional roles in diseases, their control methods, taxonomy, phylogeny, and evolution. It is anticipated that this Research Topic will enable plant pathologists to gain better insights into the phytopathogenic lifestyles, identification, phylogeny, host associations and evolution of emerging fungal pathogens. Several authors have contributed papers to this Research Topic and an overview of the scientific content is summarized below.

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