Population genetic structure and migration patterns of the maize pathogenic fungus, Cercospora zeina in East and Southern Africa
David L. Nsibo, Irene Barnes, Dennis O. Omondi, Mathews M. Dida, Dave K. Berger
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Cercospora zeina is a causal pathogen of gray leaf spot (GLS) disease of maize in Africa. This fungal pathogen exhibits a high genetic diversity in South Africa. However, little is known about the pathogen’s population structure in the rest of Africa. In this study, we aimed to assess the diversity and gene flow of the pathogen between major maize producing countries in East and Southern Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa). A total of 964 single-spore isolates were made from GLS lesions and confirmed as C. zeina using PCR diagnostics. The other causal agent of GLS, Cercospora zeae–maydis, was absent. Genotyping all the C. zeina isolates with 11 microsatellite markers and a mating-type gene diagnostic revealed (i) high genetic diversity with some population structure between the five African countries, (ii) cryptic sexual recombination, (iii) that South Africa and Kenya were the greatest donors of migrants, and (iv) that Zambia had a distinct population. We noted evidence of human-mediated long-distance dispersal, since four haplotypes from one South African site were also present at five sites in Kenya and Uganda. There was no evidence for a single-entry point of the pathogen into Africa. South Africa was the most probable origin of the populations in Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Continuous annual maize production in the tropics (Kenya and Uganda) did not result in greater genetic diversity than a single maize season (Southern Africa). Our results will underpin future management of GLS in Africa through effective monitoring of virulent C. zeina strains.
- Department of Botany