Using race survey outputs to protect wheat from rust

Robert Park


The University of Sydney, Plant Breeding Institute, Australia

Thomas Fetch, Yue Jin, Mohinder Prashar and Zac Pretorius



Race (pathotype) surveys of cereal rust pathogens have been conducted in many parts of the world since the early 1900s. The only way to identify rust pathotypes remains virulence testing in greenhouse tests using genotypes (“differentials”) carrying different resistance genes. Virulence determinations have rarely targeted genes conferring adult plant resistance because of the technical difficulties of working with adult plants under controlled conditions. Where pathotype surveys have been conducted in a robust and relevant way, they have provided both information and pathogen isolates that underpinned rust control efforts, from gene discovery to post-release management of resistance resources. Information generated by pathotype surveys has been used to: devise breeding strategies; indicate the most relevant isolates for use in screening and breeding; define the distribution of virulence and virulence combinations; allow predictions of the effectiveness/ ineffectiveness of resistance genes; and issue advance warning to growers by identifying new pathotypes (both locally evolved and introduced) before they reach levels likely to cause significant economic damage. To be most effective, pathotype surveys should also provide fully characterized isolates (defined pathotypes) for use in identifying new sources of resistance and screening breeding material. Although constrained to some extent by a lack of markers, particularly those not subject to natural selection, surveys have also provided considerable insight into the dynamics of rust pathogen populations, including the evolution and maintenance of virulence, and migration pathways, including periodic long-distance migration events.