Subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum L.) is the most widely sown pasture legume in southern Australia and resistance to important diseases and pests has been a major plant-breeding objective. Kabatiella caulivora, the cause of clover scorch, is the most important foliar fungal pathogen, and several cultivars have been developed with resistance to both known races. Screening of advanced breeding lines has been conducted to prevent release of cultivars with high susceptibility to other important fungal foliar disease pathogens, including rust (Uromyces trifolii-repentis), powdery mildew (Oidium sp.), cercospora (Cercospora zebrina) and common leaf spot (Pseudopeziza trifolii). Several oomycete and fungal species cause root rots of subterranean clover, including Phytophthora clandestina, Pythium irregulare, Aphanomyces trifolii, Fusarium avenaceum and Rhizoctonia solani. Most breeding efforts have been devoted to resistance to P. clandestina, but the existence of different races has confounded selection. The most economically important virus diseases in subterranean clover pastures are Subterranean clover mottle virus and Bean yellow mosaic virus, while Subterranean clover stunt virus, Subterranean clover red leaf virus (local synonym for Soybean dwarf virus), Cucumber mosaic virus, Alfalfa mosaic virus, Clover yellow vein virus, Beet western yellows virus and Bean leaf roll virus also cause losses. Genotypic differences for resistance have been found to several of these fungal, oomycete and viral pathogens, highlighting the potential to develop cultivars with improved resistance. The most important pests of subterranean clover are redlegged earth mite (RLEM) (Halotydeus destructor), blue oat mite (Penthaleus major), blue-green aphid (Acyrthosiphon kondoi) and lucerne flea (Sminthurus viridis). New cultivars have been bred with increased RLEM cotyledon resistance, but limited selection has been conducted for resistance to other pests. Screening for disease and pest resistance has largely ceased, but recent molecular biology advances in subterranean clover provide a new platform for development of future cultivars with multiple resistances to important diseases and pests. However, this can only be realised if skills in pasture plant pathology, entomology, pre-breeding and plant breeding are maintained and adequately resourced. In particular, supporting phenotypic disease and pest resistance studies and understanding their significance is critical to enable molecular technology investments achieve practical outcomes and deliver subterranean clover cultivars with sufficient pathogen and pest resistance to ensure productive pastures across southern Australia.
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Vol. 65 • No. 11