Ranking Quantitative Resistance to Septoria tritici Blotch in Elite Wheat Cultivars Using Automated Image Analysis.Phytopathology. 2018 May; 108(5):568-581.P
Quantitative resistance is likely to be more durable than major gene resistance for controlling Septoria tritici blotch (STB) on wheat. Earlier studies hypothesized that resistance affecting the degree of host damage, as measured by the percentage of leaf area covered by STB lesions, is distinct from resistance that affects pathogen reproduction, as measured by the density of pycnidia produced within lesions. We tested this hypothesis using a collection of 335 elite European winter wheat cultivars that was naturally infected by a diverse population of Zymoseptoria tritici in a replicated field experiment. We used automated image analysis of 21,420 scanned wheat leaves to obtain quantitative measures of conditional STB intensity that were precise, objective, and reproducible. These measures allowed us to explicitly separate resistance affecting host damage from resistance affecting pathogen reproduction, enabling us to confirm that these resistance traits are largely independent. The cultivar rankings based on host damage were different from the rankings based on pathogen reproduction, indicating that the two forms of resistance should be considered separately in breeding programs aiming to increase STB resistance. We hypothesize that these different forms of resistance are under separate genetic control, enabling them to be recombined to form new cultivars that are highly resistant to STB. We found a significant correlation between rankings based on automated image analysis and rankings based on traditional visual scoring, suggesting that image analysis can complement conventional measurements of STB resistance, based largely on host damage, while enabling a much more precise measure of pathogen reproduction. We showed that measures of pathogen reproduction early in the growing season were the best predictors of host damage late in the growing season, illustrating the importance of breeding for resistance that reduces pathogen reproduction in order to minimize yield losses caused by STB. These data can already be used by breeding programs to choose wheat cultivars that are broadly resistant to naturally diverse Z. tritici populations according to the different classes of resistance.