Widely virulent races of the stem rust pathogen (Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici) such as those isolated from Africa (e.g., TTKSK, isolate synonym Ug99) threaten wheat production worldwide. To identify Aegilops accessions with effective resistance to such virulent stem rust races, up to 10 different species from Israel were evaluated against African races TTKSK, TTKST, and TTTSK and the Israeli race TTTTC as seedlings in the greenhouse. A wide diversity of stem rust reactions was observed across the Aegilops spp. and ranged from highly resistant (i.e., infection type 0) to highly susceptible (infection type 4). The frequency of resistance within a species to races TTTTC and TTKSK ranged from 7 and 14%, respectively, in Aegilops searsii to 98 and 100% in AE. speltoides. In all, 346 accessions were found resistant to the three African races and 138 accessions were resistant (or heterogeneous with a resistant component) to all four races. The species with broadly resistant accessions included Ae. longissima (59 accessions), Ae. peregrina (47 accessions), Ae. sharonensis (15 accessions), Ae. geniculata (9 accessions), Ae. kotschyi (5 accessions), and Ae. bicornis (3 accessions). Few geographical trends or correlations with climatic variables were observed with respect to stem rust resistance in the Aegilops spp. The exception was Ae. longissima infected with race TTTTC, where a high frequency of resistance was found in central and northern Israel and a very low frequency in southern Israel (Negev desert region). This geographical trend followed a pattern of annual precipitation in Israel, and a significant correlation was found between this variable and resistance in Ae. longissima. Although difficult, it is feasible to transfer resistance genes from Aegilops spp. into wheat through conventional wide-crossing schemes or, alternatively, a cloning and transformation approach. The broadly resistant accessions identified in this study will be valuable in these research programs.
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