Seed World

Genomics-Driven Surveillance to Tackle Emerging Crop Pathogens

A new robust and rapid genomics strategy that tracks the devastating wheat yellow rust pathogen has been developed by scientists in the United Kingdom from The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC), John Innes Centre (JIC), The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB).
This group of scientists joined forces to develop a new pathogen surveillance technique called “field pathogenomics” that can be readily applied to these difficult pathogens. Based on new gene sequencing technologies, this method allows scientists to assess the population structure of these pathogens directly from infected field samples, accelerating the response time of scientists and farmers to this disease.
“There has been an explosion in the genetic diversity of yellow rust in the UK,” says Chris Burt, a cereal molecular geneticist at RAGT Seeds. “This research provides us with a vastly improved understanding of this diversity and a new method to monitor any future changes that occur. This is essential information to help us to develop varieties that are resistant to the wider range of yellow rust isolates that we now find in the field.”
This disease is widespread across the major wheat-producing areas of the world and can cause significant reductions in grain quality and yield in susceptible cultivars. Improved surveillance and diagnostic systems are essential in responding to the threat of such crop diseases.