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Abstract

Although Syrian high-yielding wheat cultivars grown under Mediterranean conditions include acceptable levels of resistance to biotic constraints, little is known about their susceptibility to Fusarium head blight (FHB), a harmful disease of wheat cultivation worldwide. The capacity of 16 fungal isolates of four FHB species to confer the disease on spikes and spikelets of six widely grown old and modern Syrian durum and bread wheat cultivars with known in vitro quantitative resistance to FHB was evaluated. Quantitative traits were visually assessed using spray and point inoculations for determining disease development rates, disease incidence (DI) and disease severity (DS) under controlled conditions. Differences in pathogenicity and susceptibility among wheat cultivars were observed, emphasizing the need for breeders to include aggressive isolates or a mixture of isolates representative of the FHB diversity in their screenings for selection of disease resistant cultivars. Bread wheat cultivars showed lower levels of spike and spikelet damage than durum cultivars regardless of the date of cultivar release. Overall, the six wheat cultivars expressed acceptable resistance levels to initial fungal infection and fungal spread. Quantitative traits showed significant correlation with previous standardized area under disease progress curve (AUDPCstandard) data generated in vitro. Thus, the predictive ability of AUDPCstandard appears to be crucial in assessing pathogenicity and resistance in adult wheat plants under controlled conditions. While in the Mediterranean countries the risk of disease is progressively increasing, the preliminary data in this report adds to our knowledge about four FHB species pathogenicity on a Syrian scale, where the environment is quite similar to some Mediterranean wheat growing areas, and show that Syrian cultivars could be new resistant donors with favorable agronomical characteristics in FHB-wheat breeding programs.
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Abstract

Fusarium crown rot (FCR), caused by Fusarium culmorum (Wm.G.Sm) Sacc., is an important disease of wheat both in Iraq and other regions of wheat production worldwide. Changes in environmental conditions and cultural practices such as crop rotation generate stress on pathogen populations leading to the evolution of new strains that can tolerate more stressful environments. This study aimed to investigate the genetic diversity among isolates of F. culmorum in Iraq. Twenty-nine samples were collected from different regions of wheat cultivation in Iraq to investigate the pathogenicity and genetic diversity of F. culmorum using the repetitive extragenic palindromic (REP-PCR) technique. Among the 29 isolates of F. culmorum examined for pathogenicity, 96% were pathogenic to wheat at the seedling stage. The most aggressive isolate, from Baghdad, was IF 0021 at 0.890 on the FCR severity index. Three primer sets were used to assess the genotypic diversity via REP, ERIC and BOX elements. The amplicon sizes ranged from 200–800 bp for BOX-ERIC2, 110–1100 bp for ERIC-ERIC2 and 200–1300 bp for REP. A total of 410 markers were polymorphic, including 106 for BOX, 175 for ERIC and 129 for the REP. Genetic similarity was calculated by comparing markers according to minimum variance (Squared Euclidean). Clustering analysis generated two major groups, group 1 with two subgroups 1a and 1b with 5 and 12 isolates, respectively, and group 2 with two subgroups 2a and 2b with 3 and 9 isolates, respectively. This is the first study in this field that has been reported in Iraq.
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