Zoological Institute, Community Ecology, University of Bern, Baltzerstr. 6, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland
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Accepted for publication 9 March 2006.
The rust fungus Puccinia punctiformis has potential as a biological control agent for creeping thistle Cirsium arvense, because systemically infected shoots usually die before flowering. The mechanism of rust transfer as well as the spore type responsible for systemic infections have been a source of controversy. One possibility of successful transmission is the use of the weevil Ceratapion onopordi as a vector. Our results from a garden experiment show that urediniospores transmitted by the weevil are able to induce systemic infections in established thistle clones. Furthermore, the weevil origin and the date of rust treatment significantly influenced the number of rust-infected shoots. The earlier a shoot was treated, the higher the probability of rust transmission. These results challenge the current belief that teliospores passing through the soil and infecting root buds are the major cause of systemic infections in the field. Further research on biological control of creeping thistle should therefore concentrate on the application of urediniospores to enhance systemic rust infections.
© 2006 The American Phytopathological Society