DISCOVERY, IDENTIFICATION AND RISK-ASSESSMENT OF BIOCONTROL AGENTS FOR SUPPRESSION OF SOUTH AMERICAN INVASIVE WEEDS AND INSECTS IN THE U.S.
Project Number: 0206-22000-007-00
Start Date: Nov 08, 2010
End Date: Nov 07, 2015
Research activity at SABCL is aligned with National Program 304, Crop Protection and Quarantine, whose central challenge is the economical and sustainable management of pests in the U.S. minimizing negative consequences to the environment. Accidental introductions of invasive pests into the U.S. from South America have increased as a result of the international trade. Invasive pests cause major ecological and economical losses and often reduce the quality and value of products, increase the cost of production, damage environmental areas and place native species at risk. In addition, they restrict U.S. products from access to valuable foreign markets. Classical biological control offers the possibility for permanent regional suppression of weeds and insect pests that are a threat to U.S. ecosystems.
The objectives are: Obj.1) survey South America to discover, collect, and identify biological control agents of target pests; Obj.2) develop rearing techniques and conduct host range and efficacy trials for potential biocontrol agents to identify the most promising candidates; and Obj.3) facilitate exportation of selected candidates to researchers in the U.S. for field release.
SABCL research program Project Plan approved by OSQR in 2010 includes target weeds: Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolius), Brazilian waterweed (Egeria densa), water primrose (Ludwigia hexapetala), water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) and waterhyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). Insect targets are cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum), little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata), Harrisia cactus mealybug (Hypogeococcus pungens), imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta and S. richteri) and glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca vitripennis).
Prior to the collection of their natural enemies, more in depth studies on the biology, ecology, genetics, and/or taxonomy of water primrose, cactus moth and little fire ant are required. These studies are planned as sub-objectives.
Target priorities are set by Congressional mandates, as a result of stakeholder workshops, or by hierarchical decision with input from ARS National Program Leaders (NPLs), stakeholders, SABCL director and ARS scientists. Flexibility in this Project is needed to deal with new pest problems in the U.S., with concurrence of NPLs and ARS laboratories.
SABCL functions as an overseas arm for several U.S.-based biological control programs on invasive pests of South American origin (except glassy-winged sharpshooter), conducting foreign exploration, collection and evaluation of potential biological control agents to be used in the U.S.
Waterhyacinth, Brazilian peppertree, imported fire ants, and glassy-winged sharpshooter were also targets in the previous Project Plan and, except for Brazilian peppertree, Obj.1 and Obj.2 have already been accomplished; current work is limited to collecting and shipping of selected agents (Obj.3). Brazilian waterweed, water primrose, water lettuce, cactus moth, little fire ants and Harrisia cactus mealybug were added by NPLs during the implementation of the previous Project Plan and investigations are in different stages of progress; for the most recently-added targets (cactus moth, little fire ant and Harrisia cactus mealybug), specific approach and procedures for Ob.2 will be determined as soon as natural enemies are discovered, collected and identified.
The general impact of work conducted at SABCL includes conservation of non-renewable resources by self-perpetuation of natural enemies; cost-effective suppression of target pests; decreased use of hazardous pesticides; improved environment quality; protection of natural ecosystems from invasive species, favoring biodiversity; sustainable production systems and land use; higher quality food and fiber; higher protection of human health; enhanced scientific understanding of successful biocontrol programs and integrated pest management.