Plant pathogens as biocontrol agents of Cirsium arvense - an overestimated approach?
Cirsium arvense is one of the worst weeds in agriculture. As herbicides are not very effective and not accepted by organic farming and special habitats, possible biocontrol agents have been investigated since many decades. In particular plant pathogens of Cirsium arvense have received considerable interest and have been promoted as "mycoherbicides" or "bioherbicides". A total of 10 fungi and one bacterium have been proposed and tested as biocontrol agents against Cirsium arvense. A variety of experiments analysed the noxious influence of spores or other parts of living fungi or bacteria on plants while others used fungal or bacterial products, usually toxins. Also combinations of spores with herbicides and combinations of several pathogens were tested. All approaches turned out to be inappropriate with regard to target plant specificity, effectiveness and application possibilities. As yet, none of the tested species or substances has achieved marketability, despite two patents on the use of Septoria cirsii and Phomopsis cirsii. We conclude that the potential of pathogens for biocontrol of Cirsium arvense has largely been overestimated.