Using field pathogenomics to study wheat yellow rust dispersal and population dynamics at a national and international scale

Project number
Lead partner
Diane G.O. Saunders, The Genome Analysis Centre
Start Date
May 2015
End date
April 2018
AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds funding

The challenge

Wheat yellow rust is a substantial threat to wheat production in the UK. Over recent years, a series of yellow rust races, including the Warrior race, have arisen in Europe and overcome some of the major resistance genes in elite germplasm. Despite the success of the United Kingdom Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey (UKCPVS) and our understanding of the phenotypic diversity of yellow rust, little is known about its genetic diversity.

To address this, a novel approach called “field pathogenomics” for pathogen population surveillance has recently been developed by The Genome Analysis Centre. This method, based on new gene sequencing technology, allows data to be acquired directly from field samples of yellow rust-infected wheat. By implementing this approach it has been found that the yellow rust population across the UK underwent a major shift in recent years.

The project

The overall aim of this project is to apply gene-sequencing technology to the surveillance of yellow rust and undertake comprehensive global population genetic analyses of this important plant pathogen.

Specific objectives:
1. Analyse the threat of potential exotic incursions of PST to the UK by mapping the global population structure.
2. Define associations between PST genotypes, pathotypes and host pedigrees (working with UKCPVS)
3. Characterise temporal and spatial dynamics of PST genotypes
4. Develop open-source tools to map PST population structure and relay this information to the wider community

Within this large project, AHDB funds will be specifically used for the development of the genotyping platform. This platform will then be integrated into the United Kingdom Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey (UKCPVS) at the completion of the project.

The benefits

Once established, the genotyping platform will provide UKCPVS with a cost-effective way to genotype isolates. In the long-term this will ensure the UKCPVS is more predictive and better fulfils its main objective of gaining an early indication of new races and predicting durability of wheat varieties. This will also place the UK at the forefront of the most progressive pathogen surveillance mechanisms.

Farmers, breeders, agronomists and wheat variety testing authorities will benefit from the rapid means of confirming whether previously resistant wheat varieties have been broken by virulent races of the pathogen.

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