Location: Exotic and Invasive Weeds Research2013 Annual Report
1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The objective of this cooperative research project is to discover prospective biological control agents of yellow starthistle, Scotch thistle, Russian thistle (tumbleweed), and other weeds of mutual interest in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and conduct experiments to evaluate the host plant specificity and potential efficacy of the more promising species.
1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Explorations will be conducted at different seasons to regions where the target plants are known to occur to collect arthropods and pathogens likely to be host-specific. Specimens will be identified by qualified taxonomists, and phylogenetic analysis of DNA will be done when appropriate. Prospective agents will be evaluated using host specificity experiments to determine if they feed, oviposit, or develop on representative nontarget plants that are likely to be at risk of attack. Further tests under laboratory or field conditions will be conducted when appropriate. Populations of promising agents will be sent to quarantine laboratories in the U.S. to conduct further tests on the most promising agents.
3. Progress Report:
This research supports Objective 2, to discover and evaluate the host specificity and efficacy of prospective biological control agents. Exploration for new biological control agents of Russian thistle and Scotch thistle was conducted in Italy, Bulgaria, and Turkey. A field experiment was conducted near Rome, Italy, where we released Larinus filiformis, a prospective agent of yellow starthistle, and Larinus latus, a prospective agent of Scotch thistle to evaluate their potential risk to nontarget plant species. The experiment is currently ongoing.