Wheat stem rust, a devastating disease of wheat and barley caused by the fungal pathogen Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici, was largely eradicated in Western Europe during the mid-to-late twentieth century. However, isolated outbreaks have occurred in recent years. Here we investigate whether a lack of resistance in modern European varieties, increased presence of its alternate host barberry and changes in climatic conditions could be facilitating its resurgence. We report the first wheat stem rust occurrence in the United Kingdom in nearly 60 years, with only 20% of UK wheat varieties resistant to this strain. Climate changes over the past 25 years also suggest increasingly conducive conditions for infection. Furthermore, we document the first occurrence in decades of P. graminis on barberry in the UK. Our data illustrate that wheat stem rust does occur in the UK and, when climatic conditions are conducive, could severely harm wheat and barley production.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Les Szabo (United States Department of Agriculture, USA), Frank Ordon (Julius Kuehn Institute, Germany), Amangeldy Tarkalievich Sarybaev (Kazakh Institute for Land Management and Plant Breeding, Almaty, Kazakhstan), Liliya Serazetdinova (Knowledge Transfer Network, UK), and Olga Baranova (All-Russia Institute of Plant Protection, St. Petersburg, Pushkin, Russia) for assistance in sourcing samples for this study, Tom G. Fetch (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Canada) for providing differential wheat lines for screening stem rust, Sreya Ghosh (JIC, UK) for assistance in preparing samples for imaging, James Brown (JIC, UK) for commenting on the manuscript, and the staff of the Biotechnology Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) National Capability in Genomics at the Earlham Institute (EI, UK), including Leah Catchpole and Daniel Swan, for assistance with sequencing, and the NBI Computing infrastructure for Science (CiS) group. This project was funded by an institute development grant from the EI (Norwich, UK), an Industrial Partnership Award (BB/ M025519/1) from the BBSRC, a European Research Council Starting Grant awarded to D.G.O.S. (number 715638), H2020 project EMPHASIS (number 634179), by the BBSRC Institute Strategic Programmes BB/J004553/1 and BB/P012574/1, the John Innes Foundation, and an African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) fellowship to R.N.K.