Fusarium head blight (FHB) is an important disease of wheat and barley worldwide. The disease is primarily caused by members of the Fusarium graminearum species complex, consisting of at least 14 phylogenetically distinct species. To determine the population structure of the FHB pathogens in a naturally infected disease nursery located at Jianyang, Fujian province, China, 160 isolates of the F. graminearum complex were recovered from symptomatic wheat spike samples collected in two consecutive years (2008 and 2009) and characterized using species- and chemotype-specific polymerase chain reaction as well as variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) markers. All isolates analyzed were identified as F. asiaticum except for one isolate, which was identified as F. avenaceum. Among the 159 F. asiaticum isolates, 126 (79%) isolates were of the nivalenol (NIV) type while 29 (18%) isolates were of the 15-acetyl deoxynivalenol type and only 4 (3%) isolates were of the 3-acetyl deoxynivalenol type. The 10 VNTR markers revealed 124 distinct haplotypes and 76 polymorphic alleles across the whole population. The two subpopulations (FA-08 and FA-09) grouped based on the year of collection exhibited low genetic differentiation (Fst = 0.032) and high gene flow (Nm = 15.13). However, a significant genetic differentiation was found within the NIV-type isolates as revealed by the Structure software. The pairwise linkage disequilibrium tests did not support the hypothesis of random mating in the population because half (48.8%) of the locus pairs showed a linkage disequilibrium (P > 0.05). Our results suggest that FHB in this nursery was caused by a genetically homogenous and non-random mating population of F. asiaticum in 2008 and 2009, which consisted of all three trichothecene types with various levels of aggressiveness.
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