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ARS Home » Crop Production and Protection » Research » Research Project #428590

Research Project: Biological Control of Invasive Pests from South America

Location: Crop Production and Protection

Project Number: 0206-22000-008-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Nov 8, 2015
End Date: Nov 7, 2020

Objective 1: Explore for natural enemies of invasive weeds identified as high priority targets by the ARS Office of National Programs, performing collections, importations and exportations in compliance with local and international regulations. High priority invasive weeds include but are not limited to water hyacinth, water lettuce, Brazilian waterweed, Brazilian peppertree, water primrose and giant salvinia. Objective 2: Explore for natural enemies of invasive insect pests identified as high priority targets by the ARS Office of National Programs, performing collections, importations and exportations in compliance with local and international regulations. High priority pests include but are not limited to black imported fire ant, red imported fire ant, little fire ant, tawny crazy ant, cactus moth, and cactus mealybug. Objective 3: Perform taxonomic and phylogenetic studies as needed to support the development of biological control agents, such as characterizing undescribed or cryptic parasites and herbivores of the targets. Objective 4: Identify the biological and physical parameters that affect the efficacy and safety of potential agents, including climatic conditions, host specificity, effective rearing conditions, and biogeography.

FuEDEI (ex-SABCL) research program Project Plan approved by OSQR in 2010 includes target weeds: Brazilian peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolius), Brazilian waterweed (Egeria densa), water primrose (Ludwigia hexapetala), water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) and waterhyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). Insect targets are cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum), little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata), Harrisia cactus mealybug (Hypogeococcus pungens), imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta and S. richteri) and the water fern (Salvinia molesta) commonly known as giant salvinia. Prior to the collection of their natural enemies, more in depth studies on the biology, ecology, genetics, and/or taxonomy of water primrose, cactus moth and little fire ant are required. These studies are planned as sub-objectives. Target priorities are set by Congressional mandates, as a result of stakeholder workshops, or by hierarchical decision with input from ARS National Program Leaders (NPLs), stakeholders, Laboratory director and ARS scientists. Flexibility in this Project is needed to deal with new pest problems in the U.S., with concurrence of PLs and ARS laboratories. FuEDEI (ex-SABCL) functions as an overseas arm for several U.S.-based biological control programs on invasive pests of South American origin, conducting foreign exploration, collection and evaluation of potential biological control agents to be used in the U.S. Waterhyacinth, Brazilian peppertree and imported fire ants were also targets in the previous Project Plan and, except for Brazilian peppertree, Obj.1 and Obj.2 have already been accomplished; current work is limited to collecting and shipping of selected agents (Obj.3). Brazilian waterweed, water primrose, water lettuce, cactus moth, little fire ants and Harrisia cactus mealybug were added by NPLs during the implementation of the previous Project Plan and investigations are in different stages of progress; for the most recently- added targets (cactus moth, little fire ant and Harrisia cactus mealybug), specific approach and procedures for Obj.2 will be determined as soon as natural enemies are discovered, collected and identified. The general impact of work conducted at FuEDEI (ex-SABCL) includes conservation of non-renewable resources by self-perpetuation of natural enemies; cost-effective suppression of target pests; decreased use of hazardous pesticides; improved environment quality; protection of natural ecosystems from invasive species, favoring biodiversity; sustainable production systems and land use; higher quality food and fiber; higher protection of human health; enhanced scientific understanding of successful biocontrol programs and integrated pest management.