Rusts are important pathogens of angiosperms and gymnosperms including cereal crops and forest trees. With respect to cereals, rust fungi are among the most important pathogens. Cereal rusts are heteroecious and macrocyclic requiring two taxonomically unrelated hosts to complete a five spore stage life cycle. Cereal rust fungi are highly variable for virulence and molecular polymorphism. Leaf rust, caused by Puccinia triticina is the most common rust of wheat on a worldwide basis. Many different races of P. triticina that vary for virulence to leaf rust resistance genes in wheat differential lines are found annually in the US. Molecular markers have been used to characterize rust populations in the US and worldwide. Highly virulent races of P. triticina are selected by leaf rust resistance genes in the soft red winter wheat, hard red winter wheat and hard red spring wheat cultivars that are grown in different regions of the US. Cultivars that only have race-specific leaf rust resistance genes that are effective in seedling plants lose their effective resistance and become susceptible within a few years of release. Cultivars with combinations of race non-specific resistance genes have remained resistant over a period of years even though races of the leaf rust population have changed constantly.
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- Cereal rust fungi