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Field response of near‐isogenic brown midrib sorghum lines to fusarium stalk rot, and response of wildtype lines to controlled water deficit

D. L. Funnell‐Harris, P. M. O'Neill, S. E. Sattler
Plant pathology 2018 v.67 no.7 pp. 1474-1482
Fusarium thapsinum, Sorghum bicolor, arid lands, bioassays, digestibility, drought, ethanol, genetic background, greenhouse production, greenhouses, lignin, lignocellulose, livestock, lodging, mutants, pathogens, ruminants, temperature, virulence, water stress, Nebraska
To increase digestibility for ruminant livestock and for lignocellulosic ethanol conversion efficiency in sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), brown midrib (bmr) lines carrying bmr6 or bmr12 and the double mutant (bmr6 bmr12) in two backgrounds (RTx430 and Wheatland) were developed, resulting in lines with significantly reduced lignin, as compared with the near‐isogenic wildtype. Under greenhouse conditions, these lines had previously demonstrated no increased susceptibility, and some lines were more resistant to the highly virulent stalk rot pathogen, Fusarium thapsinum, compared to the wildtype. Fusarium stalk rot of sorghum is a destructive disease that under high temperatures or drought conditions may lead to lodging. To determine if greenhouse observations could be extended to field environments, bmr and near‐isogenic wildtype lines were inoculated with F. thapsinum at field locations, Mead (irrigated) and Havelock (dryland) in Nebraska, USA. Analysis of mean lesion lengths showed those of most bmr lines were statistically similar to the wildtype. Across both genetic backgrounds, bmr6 and bmr6 bmr12 double mutant plants grown at Mead had significantly smaller mean lesion lengths than the corresponding wildtype (P ≤ 0.05). To assess responses of the two genetic backgrounds to controlled (greenhouse) water stress, wildtype RTx430 and Wheatland plants were inoculated with F. thapsinum under well‐watered and water stress conditions. Mean lesion lengths resulting on water deficit plants were significantly larger than those on well‐watered plants (P = 0.01). These results indicate that this bioassay can be used to screen sorghum lines in the greenhouse for increased resistance or tolerance to both drought and fusarium stalk rot.