Screening Corymbia populations for resistance to Puccinia psidii



The exotic rust pathogen Puccinia psidii is now widespread along the east coast of Australia from temperate Victoria to tropical far north Queensland, with a current host range exceeding 200 species from 37 myrtaceous genera. To determine the threat P. psidii poses to plantation and native eucalypts, artificial inoculation was used to screen germplasm of spotted gum (Corymbia spp.) for resistance to the biotype of P. psidii that has become established in Australia. The objective was to characterize resistance to P. psidii within the Corymbia species complex so that management strategies for the deployment of germplasm from existing breeding programmes of these spotted gum species could be developed. Symptom development initiated 7 days after inoculation, with resistant and susceptible seedlings identified within all species, provenances and families. Inter- and intraspecific variability in rust resistance was observed among spotted gum species. There was no apparent relationship between climatic conditions at the provenance origin and disease resistance. The heritability estimates for all assessments are moderate to high and indicate a significant level of additive genetic variance for rust resistance within the populations. The results of this study clearly identify potential to select for resistance at the family level within the tested populations. While the potential for P. psidii to detrimentally impact upon Corymbia in the nursery and in young plantations was demonstrated, estimations of the heritability of resistance suggest that efforts to enhance this trait through breeding have reasonable prospects for success.