Characterization of a diverse South American wheat panel to identify new leaf rust and stem rust resistance genes
Leaf rust (LR) and stem rust (SR) are threats to global wheat production and new races frequently overcome resistance genes deployed in wheat cultivars. Identification of new sources of resistance is a major goal for many pre-breeding programs. The objective of this study was to investigate the genetic basis of resistance to LR and SR in a diverse South American wheat panel. Molecular markers for known resistance genes and GBS were used to dissect genetic components. The wheat panel of 122 lines was characterized under field conditions at La Estanzuela Research Station, Uruguay, for disease severity (DS) to LR (2014 and 2015) and SR (2015), and LTN (leaf tip necrosis). Final DS for LR ranged between 0 and 95%, with mean values of 40% (2014) and 46% (2015). For SR, final DS ranged between 0 and 50%, with a mean value of 5%. The frequencies of positive diagnostic resistance markers among accessions were 20.5% for Lr34/Sr57, 6.6% for Lr68, 3.3% for Sr2/Lr27, 23% for Sr31/Lr26, 20.5% for Sr24/Lr24, 9.4% for Sr25/Lr19, and 0% for Sr39/Lr35. Of all the LR/SR resistance genes, only the effect of Lr68 was significant when predicting LR DS. Seventeen lines were identified with combinations of two genes, but no combination conferred a significantly improved level of resistance. Preliminary GWAS analysis for LR response on a subset of 86 lines revealed several QTLs, with a major QTL explained by Lr68. Lines with good levels of resistance to LR and SR, high expression of LTN, and absence of markers for the studied resistance genes were identified, indicating that there are other genes involved in resistance. Future research involving the testing of additional molecular markers for other known resistance genes, and a deeper GWAS analysis, will provide further information about the resistance genes present in this wheat panel.