Challenges in controlling leaf rust in the Southern Cone region of South America
Leaf rust (caused by Puccinia triticina) continues to be the most important and widespread foliar disease of wheat in the Southern Cone. The P. triticina population of the region is extremely dynamic, leading to short-lived resistance in commercial cultivars. Some high yielding materials susceptible to leaf rust have been released and their increasing cultivation relies on fungicide applications to control leaf rust. The most important challenge of breeding programs in the Southern Cone is to incorporate durable leaf rust resistance in high yielding cultivars. These cultivars must also combine resistance to other relevant diseases and meet industrial quality standards demanded by the market. Leaf rust resistance in wheat varieties and lines lies mostly in combinations of seedling resistance genes or combinations of these with adult plant resistance (APR), including Lr34. Few recently released cultivars carry APR to leaf rust that might be expected to be durable. Since efforts to introduce slow rusting into high yielding adapted germplasm are increasing in most countries, more cultivars carrying this type of resistance will likely be released. If major genes are used, the introduction of effective genes not present in the regional germplasm will increase the diversity of resistance. Molecular markers are used in breeding in Argentina and are starting to be implemented in Brazil and Uruguay. Increased use of molecular tools could improve genetic progress in breeding programs, allow identification of APR genes present in current regional germplasm, and facilitate identification of new resistance genes.