How will plant pathogens adapt to host plant resistance at elevated CO2 under a changing climate?


  • Sukumar Chakraborty,

    Corresponding author
    1. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Plant Industry, Queensland Bioscience Precinct, 306 Carmody Road, St. Lucia, Queensland 4067, Australia;
      Author for correspondence: Sukumar Chakraborty Tel: +617 32142677 Fax: +617 32142950 Email:
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  • Somnath Datta

    1. Department of Statistics, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
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Author for correspondence: Sukumar Chakraborty Tel: +617 32142677 Fax: +617 32142950 Email:


  • •   To better understand evolution we have studied aggressiveness of the anthracnose pathogen, Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, collected from Stylosanthes scabra pastures between 1978 and 2000 and by inoculating two isolates onto two cultivars over 25 sequential infection cycles at ambient (350 ppm) and twice-ambient atmospheric CO2 in controlled environments.
  • •   Regression analysis of the field population showed that aggressiveness increased towards a resistant cultivar, but not towards a susceptible cultivar, that is no longer grown commercially.
  • •   Here we report for the first time that aggressiveness increased on both cultivars after a few initial infection cycles at twice-ambient CO2 as isolates adapted to combat enhanced host resistance, while at ambient CO2 this increased steadily for most cycles as both cultivars selected for increased aggressiveness. Genetic fingerprint and karyotype of isolates changed for some CO2-cultivar combinations, but these were not related to changed aggressiveness.
  • •   At 700 ppm fecundity increased for both isolates, and this increased population size, in combination with a conducive microclimate for anthracnose from an enlarged plant canopy under elevated CO2, could accelerate pathogen evolution.