Biocontrol of glossy buckthorn and reed canarygrass with rust fungus

photograph of a glossy buckthorn branch with berries

Glossy buckthorn

Image credit: "Glossy buckthorn" by Eli Sagor is licensed under CC BY-NC-2.0


In the spring of 2017, a field researcher discovered an invasive glossy buckthorn shrub (Frangula alnus) infected with a type of rust, a type of fungus that creates raised, red-ish, orange-ish, or brown-ish spots on leaves. Rusts represent an umbrella of fungal diseases, some  that affect cereal crops like oats and wild grasses. The variety of rust this researcher stumbled upon is new to the United States, and was later confirmed to have originated in another priority invasive plant: reed canarygrass.

MITPPC researchers are evaluating whether this new rust can offer safe, practical, and effective biocontrol for glossy buckthorn and reed canarygrass in Minnesota. 

Research questions

  • Where is the novel rust occurring in the state? 
  • What host species does the rust affect? 
  • Does the rust offer effective biocontrol for reed canarygrass and glossy buckthorn?


Researchers gave us a better understanding of the distribution of Puccinia coronata var. coronata (Pcc) in Minnesota as well as across the Midwest and Northeastern United States. In literature, they described the disease and improved the description of the pathogen’s morphological and phylogenetic data.

Through greenhouse trials, the team tested many species for susceptibility to Pcc. Main cereal crops, including oat, barley, rye, triticale, duram wheat, and bread wheat, are all resistant to Pcc. Species that can be harmed by Pcc include grass species, native buckthorn species, reed canarygrass, and glossy buckthorn. However, further research is needed to understand the impact of Pcc on reed canarygrass and glossy buckthorn in natural settings.

The research team also studied and tested Puccinia digitaticoronata, a recently described crown rust pathogen of Kentucky Bluegrass. They confirmed its presence in Minnesota and found that most Poa species are affected by P. digitaticoronata while cereal crops are not.

Researchers are building upon this line of research in separate project: Effects of Puccinia species complex on common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica).



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Research team

Pablo D. Olivera Firpo | principal investigator

Yue Jin | co-principal investigator

Susan Galatowitsch | cooperator

Neil Anderson | cooperator 

Alan Smith | cooperator 

Nicholas Greatens | postdoctoral researcher

Karl Miller | researcher


Collaborating organizations

USDA-Agricultural Research Service

USDA-ARS Cereal Disease Lab

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