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Groundbreaking for New Invasive Plant Quarantine Facility

By Alfredo Flores
April 22, 2002

Groundbreaking ceremonies are scheduled today in Florida for a new U.S. Department of Agriculture Invasive Plant Research Facility that will help scientists continue their research to stop melaleuca and other invasive weeds that threaten the Everglades and other sensitive areas.

The new facility in Davie, Florida, to be operated by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, is scheduled to open in February 2003. ARS is USDA’s chief scientific research agency.

One of the most serious non-native weeds to be studied in the quarantine lab is melaleuca. Originally from Australia, melaleuca was introduced in Florida in the mid-1880s. Since then, it has quickly spread throughout south Florida, displacing native plant and animal communities, drying up wetlands, creating fire hazards and threatening the stability of the Everglades ecosystem.

USDA is currently directing studies of the melaleuca psyllid (Boreioglycaspis melaleucae), a tiny insect that may help to control or eradicate melaleuca. These insects feed on melaleuca’s clear sap, severely damaging the invasive plant’s seedlings. Lack of quarantine space for rearing such biological control agents has impeded research and testing in the past.

In 2001, the Department of the Interior provided $6.2 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for construction of the new quarantine facility. It will be located at the University of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie.

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