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A pathogenicity survey of Puccinia recondita f.sp. tritici (Prt) was conducted in western Europe in 1995. Random urediospore isolates (850) of Prt were collected from the air by means of a jet spore sampler in wheat-growing regions of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, northern Italy, Switzerland and the UK. Pathogenicity of the isolates was determined in tests of detached primary leaf segments maintained on water agar supplemented with benzimidazole (35 p.p.m.). The differential genotypes used were Thatcher, 20 near-isogenic Thatcher lines each with a single leaf rust resistance gene, and five cultivars/lines with additional resistance genes. All isolates were avirulent for the genes Lr9, Lr19, Lr21, Lr24, Lr25 and Lr29, and both virulence and avirulence were detected for the remaining 19 genes. Fifty-three pathotypes were identified, four of which predominated (64% of isolates) and were widespread throughout western Europe. Three of the four predominant pathotypes were also identified in collections of wheat leaf rust collected in Poland, Hungary, Estonia and Finland. One pathotype, which comprised 35% of isolates in the south of France, was not detected in any other region. This pathotype was indistinguishable from several isolates obtained from Morocco, which suggested that it may have originated from northern Africa. Comparisons with previously published data suggested that the four predominant pathotypes were very similar and possibly the same as pathotypes present in the former Czechoslovakia for up to 20 years. The results obtained provide evidence of migration of Prt over considerable distances in western Europe, stressing the need for a co-ordinated approach for genetical control of the disease in this region.