Phylogeography of Chinese cereal cyst nematodes sheds lights on their origin and dispersal

Xue Qing, Huan Peng, Jukui Ma, Yuanmeng M. Zhang, Hongmei Li, Deliang Peng, Xuan Wang, Tengwen Long

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Reconstructing the dispersal routes of pathogens can help identify the key drivers of their evolution and provides a basis for disease control. The cereal cyst nematode Heterodera avenae is one of the major nematode pests on cereals that can cause 10%–90% crop yield losses worldwide. Through extensive sampling on wheat and grasses, the Chinese population of H. avenae is widely identified in virtually all wheat growing regions in China, with H1 being the predominant haplotype. The monoculture of wheat in north China might have been the key driver for the prevalence of H1 population, which should date no earlier than the Han Dynasty (202 BCE–220 CE). Molecular phylogenetic and biogeographic analyses of Chinese H. avenae suggest a Pleistocene northwest China origin and an ancestral host of grasses. We assume that the prosperity of Heterodera in this region is a result of their preference for cooler climate and various grass hosts, which only appeared after the uplift of Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and aridification of Inner Asia. Nematode samples from the current and historical floodplains show a significant role of the Yellow River in the distribution of Chinese H. avenae. Whereas mechanical harvesters that operate on an inter-provincial basis suggest the importance in the transmission of this species in eastern China in recent times. This study highlights the role of environmental change, river dynamics, and anthropogenic factors in the origin and long-distance dissemination of pathogens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1236-1248
Number of pages13
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Heterodera avenae
  • Heterodera pratensis
  • cereal cyst nematodes
  • molecular species delimitation
  • phylogeny
  • population structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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