, Volume 179, Issue 1, pp 19–32

Rust-proofing wheat for a changing climate

  • Sukumar Chakraborty
  • Jo Luck
  • Grant Hollaway
  • Glenn Fitzgerald
  • Neil White


This paper offers projections of potential effects of climate change on rusts of wheat and how we should factor in a changing climate when planning for the future management of these diseases. Even though the rusts of wheat have been extensively studied internationally, there is a paucity of information on the likely effects of a changing climate on the rusts and their influence on wheat production. Due to the lack of published empirical research we relied on the few published studies of other plant diseases, our own unpublished work and relevant information from the vast literature on rusts of wheat to prepare this overview. Three broad areas of potential risks from a changing climate were described: increased loss from wheat rusts, new rust pathotypes evolving faster and the reduced effectiveness of rust resistances. Increased biomass of wheat crops grown in the presence of elevated CO2 concentrations and higher temperatures will increase the leaf area available for attack by the pathogen leading to increased inoculum production. If changed weather conditions were to accelerate the life cycle of a pathogen, the increased inoculum can lead to severe rust epidemics in many environments. Likewise should the effects of climate change result in more conducive conditions for rust development there will also be a corresponding increase in the rate of evolution of new pathotypes which could increase the rate of appearance of new virulences. The effectiveness of some rust resistance genes is influenced by temperature and crop development stage. Climate change may directly or indirectly influence the effectiveness of some resistance genes but this can not be ascertained due to a complete lack of knowledge. Since disease resistance breeding is a long term strategy it is important to determine if any of the important genes may become less effective due to climate change. Studies must be made to acquire new information on the rust disease triangle to increase the adaptive capacity of wheat under climate change. Leadership within the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) is needed to broker research on rust evolution and the durability of resistance under climate change.


Wheat rust Evolution of virulence Elevated CO2 Climate change Epidemiology Rust resistance Borlaug global rust initiative 


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Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Australia 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sukumar Chakraborty
    • 1
    • 5
  • Jo Luck
    • 2
    • 5
  • Grant Hollaway
    • 3
  • Glenn Fitzgerald
    • 4
  • Neil White
    • 6
  1. 1.CSIRO Plant IndustrySt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.Biosciences Research DivisionDepartment of Primary Industries, KnoxfieldKnoxfieldAustralia
  3. 3.Biosciences Research DivisionDepartment of Primary Industries, VictoriaHorshamAustralia
  4. 4.Future Farming Systems Research DivisionDepartment of Primary Industries, VictoriaHorshamAustralia
  5. 5.Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant Biosecurity, Innovation CentreUniversity of CanberraBruceAustralia
  6. 6.Department of Employment, Economic Development and InnovationAgri-Science QueenslandToowoombaAustralia

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