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Epidemic spread of smut fungi (Quambalaria) by sexual reproduction in a native pathosystem

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McTaggart, A. R., Drenth, A., Wingfield, M. J., O’Dwyer, C., Shuey, L. S. and Pegg, G. S. (2022) Epidemic spread of smut fungi (Quambalaria) by sexual reproduction in a native pathosystem. European Journal of Plant Pathology, 163 (2). pp. 341-349. ISSN 1573-8469

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Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10658-022-02480-3

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10658-022-02480


Quambalaria are fungal pathogens of Corymbia, Eucalyptus and related genera of Myrtaceae. They are smut fungi (Ustilaginomycota) described from structures that resemble conidia and conidiophores. Whether these spore forms have asexual or sexual roles in life cycles of Quambalaria is unknown. An epidemic of Q. pitereka destroyed plantations of Corymbia in New South Wales and Queensland (Australia) in 2008. We sampled 177 individuals from three plantations of C. variegata and used AFLPs to test hypotheses that the epidemic was spread by asexual reproduction and dominated by a single genotype. There was high genotypic diversity across ≥600 AFLP loci in the pathogen populations at each plantation, and evidence of sexual reproduction based on neighbour-net analyses and rejection of linkage disequilibrium. The populations were not structured by host or location. Our data did not support a hypothesis of asexual reproduction but instead that Q. pitereka spreads exclusively by sexual reproduction, similar to life cycles of other smut fungi. Epidemics were exacerbated by monocultures of Corymbia established from seed collected from a single provenance. This study showcases an example of an endemic pathogen, Q. pitereka, with a strictly outbreeding life cycle that has caused epidemics when susceptible hosts were planted in large monoculture plantations.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Horticulture and Forestry Science
Additional Information:Open access
Subjects:Plant pests and diseases
Plant pests and diseases > Plant pathology
Forestry > Research. Experimentation
Live Archive:24 Feb 2022 03:19
Last Modified:07 Jul 2022 00:09

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