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Government, Industry Team up Against Exotic Water Weed

By Ben Hardin
April 26, 2001

Scientists are teaming up to find ways to reverse the spread of hydrilla, an exotic weed that grows underwater and clogs numerous waterways and reservoirs in southern parts of North America.

The Agricultural Research Service, building on the success of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has entered into a three-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with SePRO Corporation, Carmel, Ind. The company markets aquatic weed control products. The researchers’ goal: to introduce effective bioherbicides that can be integrated with current control efforts.

The fungus tapped for the research is called Mycoleptodiscusterrestris, and it may have helped keep some native American weeds in check since time immemorial. Applying a little extra measure of the fungus as a bioherbicide at the right time may be just the ticket for keeping the hydrilla--originally from Asia--from flourishing. The CRADA is aimed at finding ways to mass produce and formulate M.terrestris to demonstrate its commercial potential.

Scientists at the Corp’s U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Miss., isolated M.terrestris from microbes collected from diseased hydrilla. After further research, they surmised the fungus was a good candidate for application as a biological control agent and began working with ARS scientists at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR), Peoria, Ill. The Peoria scientists also have been developing expertise in producing other potential biopesticides.

Development of a safe, biological control measure should help reduce the environmental and economic impact of hydrilla, which grows so competitively with other aquatic plants that biological diversity may be threatened in many lakes and streams. Hydrilla is notorious for clogging marinas, snarling fishing lines and interfering with flood control and hydroelectric power generation. In times of drought, these weeds can also obstruct the flow of irrigation water.

ARS is the chief scientific agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Mark A. Jackson, ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill., phone (309) 681-6283, fax (309) 681-6693,