• Research

Combating wheat yellow rust

Led by the Saunders Lab we are applying a multidisciplinary approach to studying wheat yellow rust disease.

Project summary.

Throughout history one of the most significant threats to wheat production has been the infamous rust pathogens that can cause loss of an entire crop if left untreated. Here in the UK in the last decade, wheat yellow rust disease has re-emerged as a major constraint on agriculture and continues to pose a major threat to wheat production worldwide. The causal agent is a fungus called Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici (PST) that can cause significant reductions in both grain quality and yield in susceptible wheat cultivars. In the last decade, new PST strains have emerged that are capable of adapting to warmer temperatures, can infect a wider selection of wheat varieties, and are more aggressive than previously characterised strains leading to wide scale epidemics.

Our aim is to use a multidisciplinary approach to build a better understanding of how this pathogen is capable of causing such devastation. With a particular focus on the population dynamics of the pathogen, we are working with partners across the globe to decipher the migration routes of the new emergent strains of this pathogen that threaten UK agriculture. Our goal is to improve the UK’s national surveillance programme by examining hundreds of yellow rust samples annually and improve the efficiency of current programmes. Working with fellow scientists in 13 international partnerships across 6 continents and in partnership with the UK Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey (UKCPVS) run by NIAB in Cambridge, we are collecting samples from across the world to assess the global diversity of the Yellow Rust pathogen. In addition, we are continuing to develop our genomics-based surveillance technique called “field pathogenomics” to develop the most accurate, fast and effective field-based diagnostic test yet.

Using a genomics and molecular genetics approach we are also analysing the intimate association between the pathogen and its wheat host to better understand the weapons used by the pathogen to cause disease. 

Tools.

To find out more about our research you can visit our website: 

http://yellowrust.com

Genomics-based pathogen surveillance map.

Publications.

The host-pathogen interaction between wheat and yellow rust induces temporally coordinated waves of gene expression.

Dobon A., Bunting DC., Cabrera-Quio LE., Uauy C., Saunders DGO.  BMC Genomics, 17:380 (2016)

Field pathogenomics reveals the emergence of a diverse wheat yellow rust population.

Hubbard A., Lewis CM., Yoshida K., Ramirez-Gonzalez RH., De Vallavieille-Pope C., Thomas J., Kamoun S., Bayles R., Uauy C., Saunders DGO. Genome Biology, 16 (2015)

Genome analyses of the wheat yellow (stripe) rust pathogen Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici reveal polymorphic and haustorial expressed secreted proteins as candidate effectors.

Cantu D., Segovia V., Maclean D., Bayles R., Chen X., Kamoun S., Dubcovsky J., Saunders DGO. and Uauy C.  BMC Genomics, 14 (2013)

Collaborators.

Sarah Holdgate and Jane Thomas

Working in partnership to improve UK plant pathogen surveillance.

Impact statement.

Using a genomics and molecular genetics approach we are also analysing the intimate association between the pathogen and its wheat host to better understand the weapons used by the pathogen to cause disease.

People working on the project.