Wild plants produce abundant seeds and seedlings, but most die before reaching maturity, and these premature deaths are often caused by pathogens. Major genes for resistance protect some seedlings or juveniles. These selected individuals can become a resistant, mature cohort. Alternatively, plants can exhibit mature, adult plant resistance.
These two explanations can be indistinguishable in the field when epidemics in natural pathosystems occur regularly, resulting in annual selection for resistance. This study included multi-year observations of a biennial plant where the distinction could be made. White rust of Lunaria annua, a pathosystem native to the Mediterranean Basin, took time in its introduced range in Idaho, USA, to generate epidemics. After years of minimal white rust, an epidemic occurred in 2017 in which first-year, juvenile plants had 20 times the sorus density of second-year, adult plants. Since white rust incidence had been minimal for years prior to 2017, the greater resistance of 2017 adults over 2017 juveniles may have been due to adult-plant resistance. This could also be due to phenology: adult plants have mature leaves and are flowering and maturing seed by the time that white rust begins to build up on the leaves of juveniles.
The juvenile-adult difference was maintained in 2018. In white blister rusts, interpretation of resistance can also be complicated by the frequency of asymptomatic infections that adult plants would pass on to the next generation. However, we found no asymptomatic infection of seeds of L. annua in our sampling of the Idaho population.
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CERVANTES, Diana & Ridout, Mary & NISCHWITZ, Claudia & Newcombe, George. (2021). Adult plant resistance to white rust in Lunaria annua. Phytopathologia Mediterranea. 60. 381-385. 10.36253/phyto-12805.