First record of Cercospora pistiae causing leaf spot of water lettuce ( Pistia stratioites ) in Brazil, with particular reference to weed biocontrol

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Pistia stratioites, the water lettuce, is an important pantropical aquatic weed. It has been the target of successful classical biocontrol programmes utilizing an insect natural enemy collected in Brazil and introduced into Australia, Papua New Guinea and South Africa. Little attention was given to the fungal pathogens associated with this weed as potential biocontrol agents. An 11-month field survey in the state of Rio de Janeiro involving repeated visits to 12 sites, and a 2-month survey in the Amazonas Basin (Amazonas state) in Brazil, yielded only one pathogenic fungus on P. stratioites. This was identified as Cercospora pistiae. No previous record of this species has been made in Brazil nor in the New World. The fungus is described and its taxonomy and biocontrol potential discussed herein. C. pistiae is a damaging pathogen of water lettuce. Its distribution was restricted to two interconnected sites in Rio de Janeiro. A literature and herbaria survey yielded few fungi associated to water lettuce (8 species), probably reflecting a lack of adequate collection in the centre of origin of the plant.

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