Phylogenetic relationships of Berberis species in Ecuador, and pathogenicity of rust pathogens on Berberis
Identifying and tracking new races of wheat rust pathogens in a timely manner is important for early warning of disease potential in wheat-growing regions. Ecuador, located in northwestern South America, serves as a strategic monitoring location for rust fungi between the wheat production areas of North and South America. New races are likely to occur more often when the fungus is in the proximity of the alternate Berberis species host. More than 30 Berberis species have been reported in Ecuador, most of them endemic. However, most herbarium collections correspond to types, have only been found once, and/or date back 20 years or more. Therefore, the current status of diversity in Berberis spp. in Ecuador is largely unknown. Our goal is to collect Berberis species in Ecuador, document their distribution, prepare herbarium specimens, and identify the species morphologically and genetically. We will use this information to establish the relationships of neotropical Berberis species with Berberis in other parts of the world, and determine the pathogenicities of various rust fungi associated with them. Preliminary results show that the Ecuadorian Berberis spp. are phylogenetically distinct from those of Argentina and Brazil. To date, the rust fungi on Ecuadorean Berberis do not infect wheat. We have identified three potentially new rust fungal species based on DNA analysis.