Experts representing the lettuce industry on four continents travel to Yuma next week to share their knowledge of a fungus that poisons fields and makes it impossible to ever grow head lettuce there again.

The Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture (YCEDA) expects about 120 growers and ag researchers from the United States, Japan, Italy and Brazil will attend the International Symposium on Fusarium Wilt of Lettuce.

Leaders with Yuma's lettuce industry especially look forward to discussing the fungus with visitors from Japan, where farmers have battled fusarium wilt since the 1950s. In contrast, farmers in this area began experiencing the fungus around 2000.

"It is pretty bad here and getting worse," said Paul Brierley, executive director for YCEDA, which is hosting the major symposium. "...the thing is that there is no solution for this fungus right now. When it gets into a field, it can't be used for future planting of head lettuce. That can only go on for so long. You eventually get boxed into a corner."

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