Parsnips are a speciality crop in the UK, covering an area of 3100ha with a value of £64M annually. The major constraint to production is crop losses associated with root canker diseases caused by fungal pathogens such as Itersonilia and Mycocentrospora spp. Itersonilia pastinacae is a seed borne pathogen that produces ballistospores and chlamydospores that result in both foliar and root symptoms on parnsip whereas Mycocentrospora acerina produces conidia and is though to be splash dispersed.
In a BBSRC CASE Phd project with Elsoms Seeds Ltd. being carried out by Lauren Chappell, current research is aimed at characterising Itersonilia isolates from parsnip and understanding the biology of the pathogen. Whole Genome Sequencing of Itersonilia pastinacae has been carried out to facilitate analysis of different gene sequences to determine the diversity within a collection of isolates to compare with data being generated on their relative pathogenicity on parnsip leaves and roots. The project is also developing screening methods and genetic tools to facilitate breeding for quantitative resistance to both Itersonilia and Mycocentrospora. Parsnip seedling and root tests have have identified a range of resistance responses to both pathogens in different genotyped breeding lines produced by Elsoms which will be used for subsequent QTL anlaysis.