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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Puccinia striiformis in Australia: a review of the incursion, evolution, and adaptation of stripe rust in the period 1979–2006

C. R. Wellings

Plant Breeding Institute, The University of Sydney, Private Bag 11, Camden 2570, Australia (seconded from NSW Department Primary Industries). Email: colinw@camden.usyd.edu.au

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 58(6) 567-575 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AR07130
Submitted: 27 March 2007  Accepted: 21 May 2007   Published: 26 June 2007

Abstract

The wheat stripe rust pathogen (Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici; Pst) was first detected in Australia in 1979. The features of the initial pathotype suggested that it was of European origin, and later work provided evidence that it was most likely transmitted as adherent spores on travellers’ clothing. Despite long-held views that this cool temperature pathogen would not adapt to Australian conditions, Pst became endemic and progressively adapted to commercial wheat production through step-wise mutation. Several of these mutant pathotypes became frequent in the Pst population, causing widespread infection and significant costs to production (yield and quality losses; chemical control expenditure) in certain cultivars and seasons. Pathotype evolution, including adaptation to native barley grass (Hordeum spp.) populations, is described.

The occurrence of an exotic pathotype of Pst in Western Australia in 2002, and its subsequent spread to eastern Australia, represented a major shift in the pathogen population. This pathotype dominated pathogen populations throughout Australia from 2003, with chemical control expenditure estimated at AU$40–90 million annually.

Another exotic introduction was detected in 1998. Initial data indicated that certain isolates collected from barley grass were highly avirulent to wheat differentials, with the exception of partial virulence to Chinese 166. Further seedling tests revealed that these isolates, tentatively designated barley grass stripe rust (BGYR), were virulent on several Australian barleys, notably those of Skiff parentage. Data, including molecular studies, suggest that BGYR is a new forma specialis of P. striiformis. Field nurseries indicate that BGYR is likely to have little impact on commercial barley, although this may change with further pathotype evolution or the release of susceptible cultivars.

Additional keywords: host specialisation, pathotype, epidemiology, pathogen population, mutation, selection.


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