Yellow rust disease status and pathogen population structure in Northwestern region of Pakistan
Yellow rust caused by Puccinia striiformis is an important disease in Pakistan. The population structure of P. striiformis in the North Eastern Himalayan region of Pakistan have been shown to be genotypically diverse with potential role of sexual recombination (Ali et al., 2014b), while lesser diversity in the Southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)(Khan et al., 2015). This study was designed for the first time to assess disease status and analyze population structure of P. striiformis across three distant parts of Northwestern Pakistan i.e., Bajaur in North Western Agency and Swat and Buner in Malakand Agency, and was compared with other Pakistani populations. Depending on the intensity of infections caused by the pathogen in the tested varieties and breeding lines, the severity of the disease ranged from 5% to 100% during 2015. Yellow rust severity was the maximum on Morocco (100%), Gomal (100%) and KPWYT-18 (80%) and moderate on Ghanimat-e-IBGE (10%) and PS-2008, PS-2013, Tatara and Millat with 20% severity. A total of 81 single lesion samples collected on infected varieties were genotyped with 18 microsatellite markers. From these, 63 distinct multilocus genotypes (MLGs) were detected; 15 single lesion samples collected from Buner produced 15 distinct MLGs signifying very high diversity. A high genotypic diversity with clear signature of recombination was detected across all the three locations. Buner (100%) had the maximum diversity followed by Swat (97%) and Bajaur (91%). The observed diversity was almost equal to other Northeastern Himalayan populations of Pakistan, while it was high when compared to some southern populations of KP (genotypic diversity of 0.895) and other worldwide clonal populations (Ali et al., 2014a). The high diversity and recombinant population structure suggested potential role of sexual reproduction in these areas, which needs to be further explored to establish the origin of diverse virulence pattern in Pakistan.