Wheat is one of the three most important food crops of Nepal for which rusts (Puccinia triticina, P.striiformis and P.graminis) are major biotic stresses. Leaf rust is widespread and causes 14-20% yield losses and speculated that P.triticina over summer on self-sown wheat in hills of Nepal. Twenty two different pathotypes of P.triticina have been recorded while thirteen leaf rust resistant genes (Lr1, Lr3, Lr10, Lr13, Lr14a, Lr16, Lr17, Lr19, Lr23, Lr26, Lr27, Lr31 and Lr34) either singly or in combinations, impart resistance to wheat genotypes in Nepal. Yellow rust is also a major disease in mid and lower hills, river basin and valleys, causing 30-80 % grain yield losses. Twenty-nine pathotypes of P.striiformis have been recorded till now in Nepal while nine Yr genes (Yr2, Yr2 KSA, YrA, Yr6, Yr7, Yr9, Yr27, GA, and SU) have been postulated. Stem rust is a minor and sporadic disease in central, western, mid-western region late in the season. Nine Sr genes (Sr2, Sr5, Sr7b, Sr8, Sr8a, Sr9b, Sr11, Sr25 and Sr31) have been characterized. Vijay was the first Ug99 resistant wheat variety released for cultivation. Previous experiences show that Nepal served as a focal point of wheat rusts for further spread in the Gangetic plains of India due to presence of more than 25 species of Berberis in hills of Nepal. Efforts are underway to survey rusts infection on Berberis spp. Use of Tilt (Propiconazole), Triadimefon (Bayleton) and Indar (RH-124) was found effective to reduce leaf rust as well as foliar blight. Cultivation of resistant varieties in Nepal not only reduces rust severity in this country but also minimizes crop losses in other neighboring countries especially India. This demands the need for regional collaboration in South Asia to combat wheat rusts.
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Stripe rust and leaf rust have been major constraints to wheat production in Nepal since the 1960s. Several rust epidemics causing hardship for Nepalese wheat growers were due to race changes. Breeding for rust resistance was initiated with establishment of the National Wheat Research Program in 1972, but concerted searches for durable resistance came later with the introduction of wheat genetic resources from CIMMYT, Mexico. The early wheat varieties Nepal 297, Siddhartha, Vinayak, BL1473, BL 1022 and Annapurna series with leaf rust and stripe rust resistance genes Lr13, Lr23, Lr26 and Yr9, and Yr27 in the 1970s and 1980s succumbed to new races within a few years of release. However, Bhrikuti (CMT/COC75/3/PLO/FURY/ANA) with both major and minor gene combinations (Lr10, Lr14a, Lr26/Yr9/Sr31+ and Lr34/Yr18) and released in 1994 was unaffected by Yr9 virulence in 1997 and Yr27 virulence in 2004. This variety with >20 years of leaf rust and stripe rust protection continues to be the most popular wheat variety in Nepal. Three other varieties, Gautam (Siddhartha/Ning8319//Nepal 297) released in 2004, WK 1204 (SW89-3064/Star) released in 2007, and Pasang Lhamu (PGO/SERI) released in 1997 with Lr16, Lr26/Yr9/Sr31, Lr34/Yr18, Lr46/Yr29, Yr7, and Sr2 also remain resistant. The Ug99 resistant varieties Vijay (NL748/NL837), Danphe(KIRITATI//2*PBW65/2*SERI.1B) and Tilottama (Francolin#1 = Waxwing*2/Vivitsi) also possesses APR to the three rusts. Nepalese wheat researchers work closely with the CIMMYT Global Wheat Program and DRRW/BGRI to utilize knowledge and APR germplasm. Strong networks for participatory varietal selection involving women farmers in both the hills and terai help in faster adoption and in establishing varietal diversity. In summary, Nepalese wheat breeders have successfully used APR in protecting wheat crops.
The Himalayan and near Himalayan region of Pakistan, China and Nepal was recently identified as the center of diversity of Pst. The Pakistani Himalayan populations were shown to be recombinant and possibly maintained through sexual reproduction on the alternate host, Berberis spp. To examine the role of Berberis spp. in supporting Puccinia spp. in the Himalayan region of Pakistan, 274 pycnial/aecial-infected Berberis leaves and 16 grass samples with uredinial infections were collected in the region from 2012 to 2014. Amplification of infected grass and Berberis spp. samples with EF, ITS region, and β-tubulin primers and subsequent species identification based on comparisons of the sequences to sequences in GenBank identified at least five Puccinia spp. viz., P. brachypodii, putative P. coronata-loli and P. coronati-agrostis, P. striiformis f. sp. dactylis (P. striiformoides), and P. striiformis on Berberis and grasses. This infers a role of Berberis as alternate hosts to Puccinia spp. in the Himalayan region of Pakistan, and in contributing to the overall diversity of these species in the region. Microsatellite characterization of Pst samples collected on wheat in 2013 and 2014 indicated an overall high diversity and recombinant population structure in the region. However, the low frequency of wheat-infecting P. striiformis isolates obtained from Berberis spp. necessitates ongoing investigation.