Location: Invasive Plant Research Laboratory
2012 Annual Report
Invasive weeds have invaded the Everglades ecosystem decreasing its biodiversity. Biological controls of these weeds will be developed by the introduction of safe insects that reduce weed vigor. Student interns assisted in laboratory tasks that supported quarantine risk assessment of prospective biological control agents of the invasive weed Brazilian pepper, Schinus terebinthifolius. Specifically their duties included maintaining laboratory colonies of quarantine biological control candidates, propagation of host plants for raising insects and test plants for conducting the experiments. Additionally, the interns assisted in the collection of experimental data and in the data entry of the results. Specifically, terpenoid and phenolic chemistry of S. terebinthifolius fruit was examined and related to the level of infestation by an exotic fruit-feeding wasp, Megastigmus transvaalensis. We identified and quantified at least 20 terpenoids and one phenolic compound from fruit. The most abundant terpenoids included elemol, germacrene-d, spathulenol, carene-3, p-cymene, b-caryophyllene. The phenolic was identified as cardanol. These compounds will be quantified in terms of chemical evolution of the weed in its invasive range and their levels will be related to the infestations by the wasp. Approved biological controls will reduce the health and vigor of these invasive weeds, reduce their damage to natural areas and agriculture, and reduce dependence on synthetic herbicides.