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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BIOLOGICALLY BASED MANAGEMENT OF INVASIVE INSECT PESTS AND WEEDS

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research Unit

Title: Successful biological control of tropical soda apple (Solanales: Solanaceae) in Florida: A review of key program components

Authors
item Diaz, Rodrigo -
item Manrique, Veronica -
item Hibbard, Ken -
item Fox, Abbie -
item Roda, Amy -
item Gandolfo, Daniel -
item Mckay, Fernando -
item Medal, Julio -
item HIGHT, STEPHEN
item Overholt, Willam -

Submitted to: Florida Entomologist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 15, 2013
Publication Date: March 15, 2014
Citation: Diaz, R., Manrique, V., Hibbard, K., Fox, A., Roda, A., Gandolfo, D., Mckay, F., Medal, J., Hight, S.D., Overholt, W.A. 2014. Successful biological control of tropical soda apple (Solanales: Solanaceae) in Florida: A review of key program components. Florida Entomologist. 97(1):179-190.

Interpretive Summary: Tropical soda apple (TSA) is native to South America but was accidently introduced into Florida and has become a problem in pastures and natural areas. Cattle avoid the spiny leaves and stems of TSA and the weed can take over a pasture. To control TSA, explorations in Argentina identified a leaf-feeding beetle that could only survive on TSA and the insect was introduced into Florida. Scientists with USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Tallahassee, FL, along with researchers from University of Florida, Florida Division of Plant Industry, USDA-APHIS, and the Argentine Foundation for the Study of Invasive Species, implemented a program to control TSA using the Argentine beetle. Three facilities for mass rearing the beetle were established in north, central and south Florida, and adults were either hand-carried or transported to release sites by overnight courier. From 2003 to 2011, a total of 250,723 beetles were released and they became established throughout Florida. However, the beetles’ impact is more noticeable in regions below latitude 29° N. Reductions of TSA densities due to damage by the beetle are visible 2-3 years after initial release, or in some cases, within a few months. Various methods of technology transfer were used to inform the public, land owners, funding agencies and scientists about the biological control program, including articles in trade magazines, extension publications, websites, videos, field days and scientific publications. The success of the project was due to the coordinated efforts of personnel from federal, state and county agencies.

Technical Abstract: Tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum Dunal) is a small shrub native to South America that is invasive in pastures and conservation areas across Florida. Dense patches of tropical soda apple not only reduce cattle stocking rates and limit their movement, but also serve as reservoirs for pests of solanaceous crops. A classical biological control program was initiated in 1994 with exploration for natural enemies of tropical soda apple in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Host specificity tests conducted under laboratory and field conditions demonstrated that the leaf feeding beetle Gratiana boliviana Dunal (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) is a specialist herbivore that completes development only on the target weed. After obtaining appropriate permits, field releases of G. boliviana were initiated in Florida in May of 2003. Larvae and adults of G. boliviana feed on tropical soda apple leaves and may completely defoliate their host plants, resulting in reduced growth and fruit production. Three facilities for mass rearing the beetle were established in north, central and south Florida, and adults were either hand-carried or transported to release sites by overnight courier. From 2003 to 2011, a total of 250,723 beetles were released and they became established throughout Florida, however, their impact is more noticeable in regions below latitude 29° N. Reductions of tropical soda apple densities due to damage by the beetle are visible 2-3 years after initial release, or in some cases, within a few months. Various methods of technology transfer were used to inform the public, land owners, funding agencies and scientists about the biological control program, including articles in trade magazines, extension publications, websites, videos, field days and scientific publications. The success of the project was due to the coordinated efforts of personnel from federal, state and county agencies.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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