First release of a fungal classical biocontrol agent against an invasive alien weed in Europe: biology of the rust, Puccinia komarovii var. glanduliferae.
The rust fungus Puccinia komarovii var. glanduliferae was first identified infecting Impatiens glandulifera in its native range (western Himalayas) between 2006 and 2010. Subsequently, it was imported into quarantine in the UK for evaluation as a classical biocontrol agent. To assess the safety of the rust, plant species relevant to Europe were tested for susceptibility. To confirm the life cycle, all infective spore stages were inoculated on I. glandulifera to follow disease progression. Teliospores were primed using bleaching and low temperatures to break dormancy. Temperature and dew period experiments using urediniospores were conducted to assess the parameters required for infection. Of the 74 plant species tested, only I. balsamina, an ornamental species, was fully susceptible to urediniospore inoculum. The life cycle of the rust - an autoecious, full-cycled species with five spore stages - was confirmed. Urediniospores were infective between 5 and 25°C, with an optimum at 15°C. A minimum of 8 h dew period was required to achieve consistent infection. Based on a pest risk assessment, the rust poses no threat to native biodiversity within EU Member States; making P. komarovii var. glanduliferae a suitable candidate as the first fungal classical biocontrol agent against an exotic weed in the region.