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The Himalayan region of Pakistan has been shown to be the centre of diversity of wheat yellow rust pathogen Puccinia striiformis f.sp. tritici (Pst) with a probable role of sexual reproduction in the population temporal maintenance. However, the populations of southern part of Pakistani Himalayan region remains unexplored, where wheat yellow rust is an important disease on rainfed wheat. The current study was thus carried out to assess the disease status and population structure of Pst prevalent in the southern part of Pakistani Himalayan region, mainly the districts of Kohat, Karak, Bannu, Lakki-Marwat and DI-Khan. A high disease pressure was observed during wheat season in 2013 in the region, where the level of severity ranged from 5% to 100% depending upon the variety tested. Microsatellite genotyping of 102 isolates with 18 SSR markers revealed a high diversity ranging from 0.86 (for DI Khan) to 1.00 (for Karak). The recombination signature was lower compared to the Himalayan populations. Analyses of the population subdivision revealed no clear evidence of spatial structure, with the maximum FST value of only 0.081. The overall diversity was higher in the region as compared to European clonal population, though it was still lower than the recombinant Himalayan populations, which could be attributed to their distance from Berberis spp. plantation zone.
To reduce losses caused by rusts, regular and timely replacement of susceptible varieties with new high yielding, rust resistant varieties must occur. Data from a farmer survey carried out across Pakistan (Punjab, Sindh, KPK and Baluchistan) in 2014 enabled an analysis of the uptake of rust resistant variety NARC 2011. The empirical results indicated that the major sources of information that farmers obtained about NARC 2011 were research stations (83%), seed companies (7%) and fellow farmers (5%). Although production inputs were applied equally to both rust resistant NARC 2011 and rust susceptible wheat varieties the average yield of NARC 2011 (5,063 kg/ha) was superior to high yielding but rust susceptible varieties (4,446 kg/ha). Quality attributes of NARC 2011, including taste, color, dough kneading and chapatti making properties, were preferred by >70% of farmers). Seed availability and accessibility of NARC 2011 were major issues. Farmer awareness of rusts, especially the threat of exotic Pgt race Ug99, needs to be improved.