This proposal aims to explore the genetic diversity of Melampsora americana willow rust in the Northeast United States by performing full de novo Illumina and PacBio sequencing of a representative isolate to act as a reference genome for future analyses. Melampsora spp. rusts remain the most threatening pathogens of Salicaceae bioenergy crops in the Northern Hemisphere. Members of this family include the DOE flagship species Populus trichocarpa, Populus hybrids, and the closely related genus Salix. While extensive research has been conducted on the poplar rust Melampsora larici-populina, the willow rust Melampsora americana remains overlooked. This pathogen can completely defoliate its host, and in extreme cases reduce yield by 50%. There does not exist a complete genome sequence of a representative isolate, forcing large-scale bioinformatic mining for genes of interest to rely on the sequences of other Melampsora spp. with characterized genomes.
Proposer: Christine Smart, Cornell University