NCEAS Product 13880

Marshall, David; Work, Timothy; Cavey, Joseph F. 2003. Invasion pathways of karnal bunt of wheat into the United States. Plant Disease. Vol: 87(8). Pages 999-1003. (Abstract) (Online version)


Karnal bunt of wheat (caused by Tilletia indica) was first detected in the United States in Arizona in 1996. The seed lots of infected, spring-habit, durum wheat associated with the initial detection were traced to planted fields in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. However, in the summer of 1997, the disease appeared in unrelated, winter-habit, bread wheat located over 700 km from the nearest potentially contaminated wheat from 1996 (and destroyed prior to reinfection). Here, we examined potential invasion pathways of the fungus associated with the movement of wheat into the United States. We analyzed the USDA/APHIS Port Information Network (PIN) database from 1984 through 2000 to determine likely pathways of introduction based on where, when, and how the disease was intercepted coming into the United States. All interceptions were made on wheat transported from Mexico, with the majority (98.8%) being intercepted at land border crossings. Karnal bunt was not intercepted from any other country over the 17-year period analyzed. Most interceptions were on wheat found in automobiles, trucks, and railway cars. The majority of interceptions were made at Laredo, Brownsville, Eagle Pass, and El Paso, TX, and Nogales, AZ. Karnal bunt was intercepted in all 17 years; however, interceptions peaked in 1986 and 1987. Averaged over all years, more interceptions (19.2%) were made in the month of May than in any other month. Our results indicate that Karnal bunt has probably arrived in the United States on many occasions, at least since 1984. Because of the relatively unaggressive nature of the disease and its reliance on rather exacting weather conditions for infection, we surmised that it is possible this disease has a long period of latent survival between initial arrival and becoming a thriving, established disease. Additional keywords: emerging disease, invasive species.