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How large and diverse are field populations of fungal plant pathogens? The case of Zymoseptoria tritici

McDonald, B. A., Suffert, F., Bernasconi, A. and Mikaberidze, A. (2022) How large and diverse are field populations of fungal plant pathogens? The case of Zymoseptoria tritici. Evolutionary Applications. ISSN 1752-4571 (In Press)

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/eva.13434


Pathogen populations differ in the amount of genetic diversity they contain. Populations carrying higher genetic diversity are thought to have a greater evolutionary potential than populations carrying less diversity. We used published studies to estimate the range of values associated with two critical components of genetic diversity, the number of unique pathogen genotypes and the number of spores produced during an epidemic, for the septoria tritici blotch pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici. We found that wheat fields experiencing typical levels of infection are likely to carry between 3.1 and 14.0 million pathogen genotypes per hectare and produce at least 2.1 to 9.9 trillion pycnidiospores per hectare. Given the experimentally derived mutation rate of 3 x 10-10 substitutions per site per cell division, we estimate that between 27 and 126 million pathogen spores carrying adaptive mutations to counteract fungicides and resistant cultivars will be produced per hectare during a growing season. This suggests that most of the adaptive mutations that have been observed in Z. tritici populations can emerge through local selection from standing genetic variation that already exists within each field. The consequences of these findings for disease management strategies are discussed.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Crop Science
ID Code:105737

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