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Evaluating disease reaction of western Canadian spring wheat cultivars (Triticum spp.) to natural and artificial infection with Claviceps purpurea (Fr.) Tul.



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Ergot, caused by the fungal pathogen Claviceps purpurea (Fr.) Tul., attacks the floral organs of many grassy species resulting in sclerotia production rather than grain. Infection causes reduced yields, downgrading, and poisoning if consumed by humans or animals. Few recent studies have been conducted on ergot in wheat (Triticum spp.), and prevention is the only means of control. The objectives of this study were to determine if western Canadian spring wheat differed in reaction to infection with C. purpurea and if levels of inoculum would affect disease intensity in a field setting. Three variables were measured for the field experiments to determine disease reaction, including percent sclerotia by weight, number of sclerotia per spike, and weight per sclerotium. In the first experiment, nine wheat cultivars were tested using three inoculum levels. No significant differences were detected among inoculum levels. In the second and third experiments, ninety-two cultivars were studied in field and controlled conditions. Honeydew production, sclerotial size, and the percent of florets aborted were added as variables in the growth chamber experiment. Pearson correlations were calculated using cultivar means for the field and controlled environments. Results indicate that there are differences in disease reaction among cultivars and market classes, but these differences varied depending on the evaluation method used. In the field, CWAD wheat had the smallest sclerotia, but had more per spike compared to the CWRS and CWES market classes. There were no significant differences among these market classes for percent sclerotia by weight. In the growth chamber, CWAD wheat generally had the lowest ergot infection levels. When comparing the market classes within T. aestivum (CWRS, CPS, and CWES), there were no significant differences except for honeydew production. The correlation between environments was not significant for any of the variables, suggesting alternate resistance mechanism expression. In the field, reduced infection may be due to an escape mechanism, while artificial inoculation in a controlled environment may detect a physiological resistance mechanism. However, a group of cultivars with Grandin parentage showed promising results in both environments, and might confer resistance that could be integrated into disease resistance breeding programs.



Triticum aestivum, Triticum turgidum ssp. durum, ergot, Claviceps purpurea



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Plant Sciences


Plant Science


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