Leaf rust disease, caused by the fungal pathogen Puccinia triticina, is a major biotic constraint of wheat production worldwide. Genetic resistance is the most effective, economic, and environmentally safe method to control and reduce losses caused by this disease. More than 70 leaf rust resistance genes have been identified and mapped to specific chromosomes; however, continuous evolution of new leaf rust races requires constant search for new sources of resistance with novel QTL/genes. The objectives of this study were to identify sources of resistance, and to map genomic loci associated with leaf rust resistance using genome wide association study (GWAS) approach. Phenotypic evaluation of 297 spring wheat genotypes against a prevalent race of leaf rust in Georgia revealed that most of the genotypes were susceptible, and only 24 genotypes were found resistant. Furthermore, GWAS detected 10 markers on chromosomes 2A, 2B, 6A, 7A, and 7B significantly associated with leaf rust resistance. A marker on chromosome 7AS was identified revealing a novel genomic region associated with leaf rust resistance. The new identified sources of resistance and QTL could be used in wheat breeding programs to improve leaf rust resistance.
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