Supercharging the radars for pathogen surveillance

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Graduate Office


Brown rust of wheat, caused by the fungus Puccinia triticina, is one of the key threats to the yield of wheat in the UK and across Europe. Although it is sporadic in its appearance, in epidemic years losses in the UK can exceed £20 million. The brown rust pathogen population is routinely monitored as part of the UK Cereal Pathogen Virulence Survey (UKCPVS) and this provides information and early warning to farmers and wheat breeders that previously resistant wheat varieties may be under threat. However, despite the success of the UKCPVS and our understanding of the phenotypic diversity of brown rust of wheat, we know almost nothing about its genetic diversity.

In response, we recently developed an approach called "field pathogenomics" for pathogen population surveillance based on high-resolution transcriptome data for a related rust pathogen (Hubbard et al., 2015). Our new approach based on next-generation sequencing technology enables the rapid generation of high-resolution genotypic data for integration into pathogen surveillance activities that is vital to improve our understanding of the genetic sub-structure within a population. The aim of this PhD studentship project is to specifically develop the "field pathogenomics" methodology for wheat brown rust.


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011216/1 30/09/2015 29/09/2023
1776919 Studentship BB/M011216/1 30/09/2016 30/08/2019 Rebecca Doherty
Description The field pathogenomics was successfully applied to puccinia triticina, allowing transcriptomic data to be produced from field-collected samples, and the data produced used to investigate the UK and European popualtion of brown rust.The UK and European brown rust isolates were shown to be highly related, with little population structure.
Exploitation Route This work has produced a valuable dataset of UK and European Puccinia triticina data, comprising of transcriptomic- and genomic-sequenced isolates. This dataset is of use in the future for further studies on this important crop pathogen, including investigating mechanisms of infection (including potential effector proteins), host specificity, and further population studies.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description Collaboration between Saunders lab and NIAB 
Organisation National Institute of Agronomy and Botany (NIAB)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Processing fungi material supplied by NIAB for sequencing. Analysing data produced from samples and sharing relevant knowledge about results.
Collaborator Contribution Sharing of sample material. Providing training and knowledge about plant pathology. Sharing results of plant pathology tests.
Impact I have a better ability to reliably conduct plant pathology tests to further my research. Sharing of knowledge both ways as is relevant to our interests.
Start Year 2016
Description Demonstrating at Youth STEMM Awards 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Pupils attended the Youth STEMM Awards at the Noriwch Research Park. They could visit our stand to learn about the research the does, and take part in a matching game, matching the plant to the plant disease and also crop species before and after breeding. This was followed questions and discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019