Lantana blister rust, a new biological control for lantana, is ready for a spring 2015 release in New Zealand where lantana is emerging as a major weed threat, while tests assessing its safety in Australia continue.
Lantana has been spreading in both the Northland and Bay of Plenty areas of New Zealand’s North Island, threatening prime agricultural land.
Puccinia lantanae is a blister rust from Peru specific to lantana. It attacks all above ground parts of the plant, leading to stem dieback and eventual death of the whole plant.
After importing lantana blister rust infected plants in 2014, NZ Landcare Research has been mass propagating these plants for release, which will be ready this coming spring 2015. Introducing these infected plants through lantana-infested areas will also add to another biological control, Brazilian lantana leaf rust (Prospodium tuberculatum) which is already in use.
The two pathogenic fungi will work together, as each prefers a slightly different climate – blister rust thriving in warmer zones like Northland, and leaf rust in the Bay of Plenty.
Although leaf rust is already in use in Australia to control lantana which is a Weed of National Significance, leaf blister rust, which would do well in the warmer climate, is still being assessed for any possible negative environmental effects.
More information at NZ Landcare Research