A UK-China partnership to understand the genetic architecture of the Colletotrichum gloeosporoides – Fragaria x ananassa interaction

China is the foremost producer of strawberries globally, accounting for over 38% of total production. 2,000,000 mu (330 thousand acres) of land is devoted to strawberry production in China, with an estimated value of twenty billion RMB (£2.2 billion) per annum. Production is spread across the whole country, though the main research centers working on strawberry are located in major cities (Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai).

Colletotrichum gloeosporoides (Cg) is present throughout the UK, though is primarily a disease of apple. However, Cg is responsible for 96% of anthracnose cases in China, with only 4% due to Ca. In the Shangahi region Cg is the primary disease of strawberry and in epidemic years can result in losses on individual farms of between 50-85%. In any particular year it is estimated 25% of production sites have problems with Cg infection. Globally Cg is also a major pathogen of strawberry in North America and contributes significantly to disease in the field in all major areas of production.

There is an urgent need for molecular markers for resistance and a greater understanding of the disease biology of this pathogen and its interaction with strawberry and other hosts. Linking in with two ongoing BBSRC grants and one due to start in April 2016, a framework for research is laid out between three main research group partners, Prof Zhihong Gao, Nanjing Agricultural university (NAU), Prof Qing Hua Gao, the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences (SAAS) and Dr Richard Harrison (EMR) and involves multiple early career researchers from both the UK and China.

The objective of this work is to facilitate a collaboration to reciprocally train early career researchers and seek further funding in order:

  • To identify effectors involved in pathogenicity on strawberry from the broad host range pathogen Colletotrichum gloeosporoides using RNA seq data and resources from NSFC grant 31501592 awarded to Dr Liqing Zhang (SAAS)
  • To survey C. gloeosporoides pathogen effector diversity in China using the analysis pipeline developed through the BBSRC IDRIS project (BB/K017071/1)
  • To identify and characterize the host resistance response in strawberry using existing RNA seq data and in both UK and Chinese material using new genetic mapping approaches developed through the BBSRC IDRIS project (BB/K017071/1) and the funded genome sequencing project (BB/N006682/1) to identify resistance markers for UK / China industries
  • To investigate the relationship between fruit quality attributes (important for the consumer) and disease expression, determined through work in future grant proposals and work underway in (BB/M01200X/1)

Principal investigator: Dr Richard Harrison

Researchers: Dr Charlotte Nellist, Dr Andrew Armitage

Funder: BBSRC

Duration: 2016-2019

NIAB EMR and SAAS staff during a workshop in Shanghai, October 2016

Symptoms of Colletotrichum infection in the crown of strawberry plants (a) and in the field (b) in Shanghai, China 2016- Liquing Zhang

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