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Beetles versus leafy spurge:
Sheep and Beetles Control Leafy SpurgeBy Kathryn Barry Stelljes
June 19, 2001
Land owners in hot, dry areas like much of the Great Plains may be able to control the noxious weed leafy spurge in as few as three years using sheep and flea beetles, Agricultural Research Service scientists report.
ARS and cooperating scientists will demonstrate the technique to about 300 land managers at Spurgefest II on June 19-21 in Medora, N.D. Spurgefest II is the seventh field day for The Ecological Areawide Management of Leafy Spurge, or TEAM Leafy Spurge.
Unlike other grazing animals, sheep actually prefer leafy spurge to many other plants. The sheep eat the leaves, while flea beetle larvae damage the roots. Together, the team has taken out spurge on a 640-acre demonstration site in Sentinel Butte and native grasses have started to return. The beetles don't thrive in sandy or wet areas, though, and ARS is looking for other biological control agents for those environments.
Flea beetles (Aphthona lacertosa) were imported as biological control agents against leafy spurge in the 1980's. The invasive weed, which first appeared in the United States in 1827, infests at least 5 million acres of rangeland in 35 states and several Canadian provinces. The area invaded by leafy spurge is doubling every decade.
In 1988, USDA and North Dakota State scientists released 88 beetles in the Valley City, N.D., area. Since then, hundreds of millions of the flea beetles have been collected and redistributed all over North America from that site.
ARS established TEAM Leafy Spurge in 1997 as its first Areawide Integrated Pest Management program to address a weed. The program--which ends this year--is managed in cooperation with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and includes numerous state and federal agencies as well as four land-grant universities.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Scientific contacts: Gerry Anderson and Chad Prosser, ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory, Sidney, Mont., phone (406) 433-2020, fax (406) 433-5038, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.