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Lisa A. Beirn, William A. Meyer, Bruce B. Clarke, and Jo Anne Crouch

Rusts are destructive fungal diseases that can cause severe thinning and unattractive discoloration of kentucky bluegrass (KBG; Poa pratensis L.). Currently, turfgrass breeding programs rely on field evaluations to screen KBG germplasm for rust resistance; methods that are expensive, labor intensive, and require large turf areas. The availability of a greenhouse-based assay to perform prescreening of KBG germplasm for resistance to rust diseases before field trials would allow breeders to remove the poorest performing plants before field evaluations thus enhancing breeding efficiency. In this study, we set out to develop a reliable, low-cost greenhouse inoculation protocol for the two most common rust pathogens of KBG in temperate growing regions: Puccinia coronata and Puccinia graminis, the causal agents of crown and stem rust, respectively. Using a modified inoculation assay and custom-built plexi-glass chambers adapted from protocols used for cereal rust pathogens, urediniospores of crown and stem rust fungi developed on inoculated plants 10 to 14 days postinoculation. Real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays, disease symptomology, and morphology of urediniospores confirmed the presence and identity of both rust pathogens from inoculated host tissue. The inoculation protocols described here represent an effective method to accelerate screening of KBG germplasm for resistance to crown and stem rust diseases. Infection of KBG plants in the greenhouse will also allow breeders to maintain populations of crown and stem rust fungi throughout the year, providing a reliable and ongoing source of pathogen inoculum for experimentation and screening in the future.