The interaction of crop pests with their natural enemies is a fundament to their control. Natural enemies of fungal pathogens of crops are poorly known relative to those of insect pests despite the diversity of fungal pathogens and their economic importance. Currently, many regions across Latin America are experiencing unprecedented epidemics of coffee rust (Hemileia vastatrix). Identification of natural enemies of coffee rust could aid in developing management strategies or in pinpointing species that could be used for biocontrol. Here we characterize fungal communities associated with coffee rust lesions by single molecule DNA sequencing of fungal ribosomal RNA barcodes from leaf discs (˜28 mm(2)) containing rust lesions and control discs with no rust lesions. The leaf disc communities were hyper-diverse in fungi, with up to 57 taxa per control disc, and the diversity was only slightly reduced in rust-infected discs. However, geography had a greater influence on the fungal community than whether the disk was infected by coffee rust. Through comparisons between control and rust-infected leaf discs, as well as taxonomic criteria, we identified 15 putative mycoparasitic fungi. These fungi are concentrated in fungal family Cordycipitaceae and order Tremellales. These data emphasize the complexity of fungal diversity of unknown ecological function within a leaf that might influence plant disease epidemics or lead to the development of species for biocontrol of fungal disease. Copyright © 2015, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
Journal: Applied and environmental microbiology