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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOLOGICAL CONTROL OF MELALEUCA QUINQUENERVIA IN SOUTHERN FLORIDA

Location: Invasive Plant Research Laboratory

2012 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Culture biological control agents of melaleuca, Old-world climbing fern and air potato in the laboratory, glasshouse, screenhouse and nurseries and make repeated field release in melaleuca, Old-world climbing fern, and air potato infested areas in Miami-Dade County, assess their establishment and impact (biocontrol efficacy) on the invasive plant populations in released sites.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Potted invasive plants will be cultured in glasshouse, screenhouse and nurseries for use in rearing biocontrol insects. Colonies of the biocontrol insects (weevil, psyllids, stem galling flies, moth, and beetle) will be be maintained in several screenhouse and walk-in screen cages. Healthy potted individuals of invasive plants will be introduced into the cages or rearing laboratory to allow the insects to transfer, establish and multiply on the plants for 2-4 weeks. Then these plants are enclosed in psyllid proof screens, number of neonates/adults will be estimated, transported to the field, plants/plant parts are removed from the pots, and then placed in the infested stands for the insects to be transferred to the adjacent trees/vines. This general approach with appropriate modifications (for each biocontrol agents) will be used for melaleuca, Old-world climbing fern, and air potato. Establishment and their impact on release sites and other permanent plots will be monitored on .


3.Progress Report:

This research relates to inhouse Objective 5: Release and establish the populations of released agents, evaluate efficacy, and corroborate environmental safety of approved biological control agents and develop and distribute the technology to customers in order to expedite their adoption and deployment.

The five-year (2009-2014) Melaleuca quinquenervia (melaleuca) biocontrol project represents a part of the statewide melaleuca management efforts in Florida. We have identified several air-potato and old-world climbing fern infested sites in Miami Dade County for biocontrol agent release and evaluation of their impact on targeted invasive plants and associated species in the affected plant community. During this reporting year, we have established field plots for biocontrol impact evaluation of Old-world climbing fern and air potato in Miami Dade County. Additionally, we monitored melaleuca field research sites. During the current reporting period we have released 578,227 melaleuca psyllids and 2,112 melaleuca weevils, 56,150 Old-world climbing fern moth and 138 air potato beetles on their respective hosts that have infested various natural and recreational areas including the Everglades National Park in Miami Dade County. As noted in the previous progress reports we have documented significant return of native plant species (following the releases of the biocontrol agents) resulting into a significant increase in species diversity in previously monotypic melaleuca stands in southern Florida. The biological control agent production, release, and establishment and efficacy evaluation activities are directly monitored by principal investigator through regular supervision and monitoring of biocontrol insect production facility and release sites.


Last Modified: 9/23/2014
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