Analyzing genetic diversity for virulence and resistance phenotypes in populations of stem rust (Puccinia graminis f. sp. secalis) and winter rye (Secale cereale)
Stem rust (Puccinia graminis f. sp. secalis) leads to considerable yield losses in rye-growing areas with continental climate, from Eastern Germany to Siberia. For implementing resistance breeding, it is of utmost importance to (i) analyze the diversity of stem rust populations in terms of pathotypes (= virulence combinations) and (ii) identify resistance sources in winter rye populations. We analyzed 323 single-uredinial isolates mainly collected from German rye-growing areas across 3 years for their avirulence/virulence on 15 rye inbred differentials. Out of these, 226 pathotypes were detected and only 56 pathotypes occurred more than once. This high diversity was confirmed by a Simpson index of 1.0, a high Shannon index (5.27), and an evenness index of 0.97. In parallel, we investigated stem rust resistance among and within 121 heterogeneous rye populations originating mainly from Russia, Poland, Austria, and the United States across 3 to 15 environments (location−year combinations). While German rye populations had an average stem rust severity of 49.7%, 23 nonadapted populations were significantly (P < 0.01) more resistant with a stem rust severity ranging from 3 to 40%. Out of these, two modern Russian breeding populations and two old Austrian landraces were the best harboring 32 to 70% fully resistant plants across 8 to 10 environments. These populations with the lowest disease severity in adult-plant stage in the field also displayed resistance in leaf segment tests. In conclusion, stem rust populations are highly diverse and the majority of resistances in rye populations seems to be race specific.