Restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) markers were used to determine the genetic structure of Australian field populations of the barley scald pathogen Rhynchosporium secalis. Fungal isolates were collected by hierarchical sampling from five naturally infected barley fields in different geographic locations during a single growing season. Genetic variation was high in Australian R. secalis populations. Among the 265 fungal isolates analyzed, 214 distinct genotypes were identified. Average genotype diversity within a field population was 65% of its theoretical maximum. Nei's average gene diversity across seven RFLP loci was 0.54. The majority (76%) of gene diversity was distributed within sampling site areas measuring approximate to 1 m(2); 19% of gene diversity was distributed among sampling sites within fields; and 5% of gene diversity was distributed among fields. Fungal populations from different locations differed significantly both in allele frequencies and genotype diversities. The degree of genetic differentiation was significantly correlated with geographic distance between populations. Our results suggest that the R. secalis population in Western Australia has a different genetic structure than populations in Victoria and South Australia.
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