Evolution of virulence in fungal plant pathogens: Exploiting fungal genomics to control plant disease Academic Article uri icon


  • The propensity of a fungal pathogen to evolve virulence depends on features of its biology (e.g. mode of reproduction) and of its genome (e.g. amount of repetitive DNA). Populations of Leptosphaeria maculans, a pathogen of Brassica napus (canola), can evolve and overcome disease resistance bred into canola within three years of commercial release of a cultivar. Avirulence effector genes are key fungal genes that are complementary to resistance genes. In L. maculans these genes are embedded within inactivated transposable elements in genomic regions where they are readily mutated or deleted. The risk of resistance breakdown in the field can be minimised by monitoring disease severity of canola cultivars and virulence of fungal populations using high throughput molecular assays and by sowing canola cultivars with different resistance genes in subsequent years. This strategy has been exploited to avert yield losses due to blackleg disease in Australia.


  • Howlett, BJ
  • Lowe, RGT
  • Marcroft, SJ
  • van de Wouw, AP

publication date

  • 2015