Submitted to: Government Publication/Report
Publication Type: Government Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: December 17, 2004
Publication Date: December 17, 2004
Citation: Smith, L. 2004. Proposed field release the blister mite, aceria salsolae (acari: eriophyidae), for biological control of russian thistle (tumbleweed), salsola tragus (chenopodiaceae) in the united states. Government Publication/Report. Interpretive Summary: Russian thistle (common tumbleweed) is an invasive alien weed that has invaded about 100 million acres in the western U.S. It causes millions of dollars of damage and control costs per year. Tumbling plants disrupt automobile traffic, clog irrigation systems and pile up against buildings and fences. It is a major weed in dryland farming systems, especially spring wheat, and has developed resistance to some herbicides. The weed harbors insect pests that transmit curly top virus, which affects many important vegetable crops. Its pollen is a potent human allergen, and the dry plants spread wildfires. Two species of insect biological control agents have been introduced but they have not significantly controlled the weed. The mite, Aceria salsolae, was discovered in 1996, and has been evaluated as a prospective biological control agent. Quarantine laboratory studies determined that the mite has a very narrow host plant specificity. The mite poses negligible risk to nontarget plant species, and it has the potential to significantly reduce Russian thistle. The mite has been recommended for release as a biological control agent by the USDA-APHIS Technical Advisory Group (TAG).
Technical Abstract: This draft Environmental Assessment (EA) presents an evaluation of the potential benefits and risks of releasing the eriophyid mite, Aceria salsolae, as a classical biological control agent against Russian thistle (common tumbleweed). The mite is native to the Mediterranean Basin, where it is known to attack only Russian thistle. In laboratory tests, the mite only attacked a few closely related species of plants in the genus Salsola, all of which are noxious weeds. The mite kills the growing tips of the plant and stunts it. Releasing the mite should provide long-term control of Russian thistle, thus reducing economic losses caused by the weed, costs to control the weed, and environmental contamination by herbicides. No negative nontarget effects of the proposed introduction have been identified. This document was submitted to USDA-APHIS to facilitate obtaining permission to release the mite in the continental U.S.