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smut

smut, name for an order of parasitic fungi (Ustilaginales) and the various diseases of plants caused by them. Smuts produce sootlike masses of spores on the host. The spore masses may break up into a dustlike powder readily scattered by wind (loose smuts) or remain more or less covered by a smooth membrane (covered or kernel smuts). Certain smuts are edible and are considered a delicacy in some countries. As a disease, smuts lower the vitality of the host plant and often cause deformities. There is no alternation of hosts. Smuts are a most serious threat to cereal grain crops. Among those that cause severe annual losses to crops are corn smut, oat smut, bunt or stinking smut, and loose smut of wheat. Bunt is probably the most serious disease that attacks wheat at the young or seedling stage and spoils the grain. It has the odor of sour herring and is caused by either of two smut fungi. The fungus may be present on the wheat seed or in the soil in which the seed is sown, or it may be blown into a field by the wind. Smuts are classified in the kingdom Fungi, phylum (division) Basidiomycota, order Ustilaginales.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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