Unlocking new alleles for leaf rust resistance in the Vavilov wheat collection
Leaf rust (LR) is an important wheat disease and deployment of resistant cultivars is the most viable strategy to minimise yield losses. We evaluated a diversity panel of 295 bread wheat accessions from the N. I. Vavilov Institute of Plant Genetic Resources (VIR), St Petersburg, Russia for LR response and performed genome-wide association studies (GWAS) using 10,748 polymorphic DArT-seq markers. The diversity panel was evaluated at the seedling and adult plant growth stages using three prevalent Australian P. triticina pathotypes. GWAS applied to 11 phenotypic data sets identified a total of 52 significant marker-trait associations representing 31 quantitative trait loci (QTL). Among them, 29 QTL were associated with adult plant resistance (APR). Of the 31 QTL, 13 were considered potentially new loci, whereas 4 co-located with previously catalogued Lr genes and 14 aligned to regions reported in other GWAS and genomic prediction studies. One seedling LR resistance QTL located on chromosome 3A showed pronounced levels of linkage disequilibrium among markers (r2 = 0.7), indicative of a high allelic fixation. Subsequent haplotype analysis for this region found 7 haplotype variants, of which 2 were strongly associated with LR resistance at the seedling stage. Similarly, analysis of an APR QTL on chromosome 7B revealed 22 variants, of which 4 were associated with resistance at the adult-plant stage. Most of the lines in the diversity panel carried 10 or more combined resistance-associated marker alleles, highlighting the potential of allele stacking for long-lasting resistance.