Towards a more reasoned assessment of the threat to wheat crops from Tilletia indica, the cause of Karnal bunt disease.
The interpretation of information used to defend an assessment that T. indica, the cause of Karnal bunt of wheat, has a high risk of establishing in Europe and of causing significant yield/quality losses is questioned. Karnal bunt has only established in locations that are arid or semi-arid with hot summers and cool/mild winters. There is very strong circumstantial evidence that substantial amounts of seed contaminated with teliospores of T. indica were sown in Europe in the past without the appearance of Karnal bunt. It is unlikely that sufficient numbers of teliospores would survive long enough on the soil surface under European conditions and then synchronise germination during the period at heading when wheat is vulnerable to infection to guarantee disease expression. Karnal bunt is regarded as a minor disease everywhere it occurs. Almost two thirds of European wheat cultivars inoculated by a severe boot injection method have been categorised as either resistant or highly resistant to T. indica. Yield/quality losses would be expected to be low even if the pathogen were capable of establishing in Europe. The status of T. indica as an important quarantine pest is based on the indirect economic consequences of the appearance of the pathogen and not on the direct damage it causes to wheat crops. Arguments in this and previous reviews advocating a more reasoned and comprehensive assessment of the threat to Europe, North America and other locations from T. indica need to be taken into consideration in any new pest risk analyses.