Tuesday, March 16, 2004-- A wheat crop at "Chihuahuita" Farm, in the county of Cadereyta, N.  L., Mexico, and other wheat crops of other farms in the same area, was found knocked down. The owners of the rural areas notified, not directly to the governmental authorities, but to some local TV programs. The Media were present at the damaged crops and spread the idea that extraterrestrial beings had damaged the crops with their powerful spaceships (UFOs).

A Telecaster phoned to Nasif Nahle -research director of Biology Cabinet- who suggested some scientific explanations to the phenomenon. The biologist broadcasted his hypothesis through a telephonic interview.

Meanwhile, some Media continued giving credit to the stories of Ufologists about odd machines operated by extraterrestrials that, if really existed, would not have more to do than come to Earth to destroy the crops of impoverished rural people. They also affirmed that a remarkably-strong electromagnetic field generated by the powerful and mysterious motors of the alien’s spatial ships was detectable at the damaged fields.

The information from some Media encouraged to Nasif Nahle to take actions on the damaged wheat crops. Four affiliates of our organization accompanied to Nasif Nahle to lend a hand in the investigation.

FIELD INSPECTION

On examining the girdles of collapsed wheat, we observed the wheat had been knocked down toward numerous angles between 215° W-SW and 275° W-NW.

Our compass did function properly; thus we didn't detected anomalies in the natural electromagnetic field.

We found individuals that had not been knocked down inside the girdles of the fell down wheat. We noted some isolated unaltered wheat stems surrounded by collapsed wheat stems at some places.

The shapes of the sectors with collapsed wheat coincided with the shapes of the irrigation parcels made by the farmer a few hours before the falling of the wheat.

The bands between damaged sectors were following the lines of the beds excavated by the agricultural machinery when the farmer prepared the soil for the autumn-spring sow.

The leaves of the collapsed wheat presented a severe fungal infection by Septoria tritici. We counted up to 60 pycnidia by square centimeter of surface on the leaves.

We observed three sporangia of Puccinia recondita (Black Rust), in one stem. 

We observed three to five snails per wheat stem. The snails are greedy infesters of wheat fields.

BACKGROUND

Through the afternoon on March 15, 2004, the farmer watered the crop through the method of aspersion. On March 15, 2004, through the afternoon and part of the night, strong winds at 10-40 Km/h, from E-NE and E-SE blew on the region -data provided by Weather Channel.

We took samples of soil, which was excessively dampened. The superficial layer of the soil was cracked by desiccation. The mud had a heavy and adhesive consistency.

We obtained three complete thumped individuals observing that it was not hard to take them out from the mud.

We discovered numerous pycnidia of phytopathogen fungi on leaves and stems. The infection by fungi on leaves and stems was severe and displayed large sections of necrosis, chlorosis and other pathological discolorations.

We observed critical areas of necrobiosis in the broken stems and on some knots of the stems.

INVESTIGATION IN OUR LABORATORY

Materials:

Three individuals of damaged Triticum aestivalis
Berger Loup 20X.
Sterilized dissection Needles. 
Sterilized dissection pincers. 
Sterilized scalpel.
Sterilized dissection scissors. 
1:100 inoculating loops for liquid and solid media. 
1:1000 inoculating loops for liquid and solid media. 
10 Petri dishes with Sabourad media modified with Drew solution.
9 sterilized 25 ml test tubes containing 9 ml of sterilized distilled water. 
1 Bunsen burner. 
1 alcohol burner (60 ml). 

Procedure:

We examined the wounds with a stereoscopic Berger Loup, finding from 30 to 60 pycnidia of the pathogen species Septoria tritici by square centimeter and three sporangia of the pathogen species Puccinia recondita. We proceeded to inoculating some hyphae and some sporangia from both species on Sabourad media, modified with solution of Drew.

We found mycelia of an undetermined species on the lower knots of the stems. We proceeded to the inoculation of hyphae taken from the mycelia found on knots on unmodified Sabourad media. We took some hyphae from stems’ endothelium and continued with the inoculation on solid unmodified Sabourad media.

We observed sporangia of an undetermined species in the involving layers of endosperms. We continued with the inoculation of spores on solid unmodified Sabourad media. 

We placed fragments of wheat's rhizomes on Sabourad media modified with solution of Drew.

We inoculated 1 ml from a macerate of leaves, stems and grains on Sabourad media modified with solution of Drew.

Once the colonies of fungi developed, we proceeded to separate the species and inoculated each one in Petri dishes with unmodified Sabourad media. Then we proceeded to the microscopic identification of the species.

We inoculated ten pycnidia of Septoria tritici on solid unmodified Sabourad media.

RESULTS

We confirmed a severe infestation of the cracked wheat at “Chihuahuita” farm by the species of the phytopathogen fungi Septoria tritici and Puccinia recondita.

We confirmed the infestation of the cracked wheat at “Chihuahuita” farm by a pathogen fungus not yet identified (probably Ophiobolus graminis) that, together with Septoria tritici and Puccinia recondita, debilitated the stems by necrobiosis (putrefaction).

The excessive irrigation of the crops at the “Chihuahuita” farm provoked that the wheat’s ears acquired more weight that made them easy to knock down by wind.

The action of 10-40 Km/h winds towards W-SW and W-NW pulled down the wet canes of wheat at “Chihuahuita” farm.

The combination of fragility of the wheat’s stems -caused by the plant pathogens Septoria tritici and Puccinia recondita- and the improved weight of wheat’s ears by the excess of wetness reduced the elasticity of the wheat’s stems impeding them to recuperate to a normal vertical position.

Author: Nasif Nahle

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Ophiobolus graminis. (click on the image to see a larger image).
Septoria on Wheat ears. (click on the image to see a larger image).
Pycnidia of Septoria tritici on Wheat leaves. (click on the image to see a larger image).
Culture of Septoria tritici. (click on the image to see a larger image).