Prevalence of Puccinia abrupta var. partheniicola and its impact on Parthenium hysterophorus in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.
Background: Partheniumhysterophorus is a noxious invasive weed in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, including Nepal. Among 11 species of biological control agents released to control P. hysterophorus in Ausrtalia, winter rust Puccina abrupta var. partheniicola arrived fortuitously and has established in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, nearly a decade back. However, the prevalence and effectiveness of this rust as a biological control agent in Kathmandu remain unknown. To address this knowledge gap, a roadside survey was done at an interval of 2 ± 0.25 km in Kathmandu Valley to assess the P. abrupta var. partheniicola incidence and its impacts on P. hysterophorus. Infested individuals of P. hysterophorus were further divided into four severity classes (very low, low, medium, and high), and rust incidence was calculated. The impact of the winter rust on the growth of P. hysterophorus was assessed by comparing biomass and seed output of infested and non-infested individuals. Results: Among 81 locations where P. hysterophorus was present in the Kathmandu Valley, winter rust infestation was observed at 98% locations. At some locations within Kathmandu Valley such as Tinkune, Kirtipur, Chabahil, Buddha Chowk, and Dhobighat, the impacts of the rust on P. hysterophorus were medium to high. Aboveground biomass and seed output of P. hysterophorus were reduced by 47% and 73%, respectively, due to winter rust infestation. The study indicates that winter rust incidence is widespread in Kathmandu Valley with very low to high levels of damages to P. hysterophorus depending on the localities. Conclusion: The rust has, therefore, a potential to reduce the growth performance of P. hysterophorus, and it can be used as a component of integrated management of P. hysterophorus by introducing to other suitable areas in Nepal.