Distribution of Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici races and virulence in wheat growing regions of Kenya from 1970 TO 2014.

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Stripe rust, caused by the fungal pathogen Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici (Pst), is a major threat to wheat (Triticum spp.) production worldwide. The objective of this study was to determine the virulence of Pst races prevalent in the main wheat growing regions of Kenya, which includes Mt. Kenya, Eastern Kenya, and the Rift Valley (Central, Southern, and Northern Rift). Fifty Pst isolates collected from 1970 to 1992 and from 2009 to 2014 were virulence phenotyped using stripe rust differential sets, and 45 isolates were genotyped with sequence characterized amplified region (SCAR) markers to differentiate among the isolates and identify aggressive strains PstS1 and PstS2. Virulence corresponding to stripe rust resistance genes Yr1, Yr2, Yr3, Yr6, Yr7, Yr8, Yr9, Yr17, Yr25, Yr27 and the seedling resistance in genotype Avocet S were detected. Ten races were detected in the Pst samples obtained from 1970 to 1992, and three additional races were detected from 2009 to 2014, with a single race being detected in both periods. The SCAR markers detected both Pst1 and Pst2 strains in the collection. Increasing Pst virulence was found in the Kenyan Pst population, and that diverse Pst race groups dominated different wheat growing regions. Moreover, recent Pst races in east Africa indicated possible migration of some race groups into Kenya from other regions. This study is important in understanding Pst evolution and virulence diversity and useful in breeding wheat cultivars with effective resistance to stripe rust. Keywords: pathogenicity, Puccinia f. sp. tritici stripe (yellow) rust, Triticum aestivum.