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ARS Home » Plains Area » Kerrville, Texas » Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory » LAPRU » Research » Research Project #432669

Research Project: Exploration for Biological Control Agents in East Africa for Guineagrass that Facilitates the Survival of Cattle Fever Ticks in South Texas

Location: Livestock Arthropod Pests Research

Project Number: 3094-32000-039-68-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: May 14, 2017
End Date: Sep 30, 2019

We propose a survey for new biological control agents of Guineagrass in Kenya to discover potential biological control agents for this pathogenic landscape forming invasive weed that enhances the survival of cattle fever ticks in South Texas. Kenya is the native range of this weed and only limited surveys have been conducted. If new agents are discovered, further research, including full host-range testing will be proposed. Ultimately, new agents will be discovered, tested and released to control this invasive weed and reduce its impacts on South Texas rangelands.

Survey for new biological control agents at the Mpala Research Station in Kenya to document the full suite of insects that feed on small Guineagrass. Surveys will be conducted by collaborator and one technician traveling from Italy to Mpala, Kenya, four times per year and spending 7 days in the field conducting surveys. Quarterly surveys will ensure seasonality of insect abundance associated with rainfall is taken into account. Field surveys to be conducted throughout Mpala station and focus on insect herbivores of giant and small Guineagrass and other available Panicum spp. The intensive on-site surveys would focus on all parts of the plant including roots, crown, stems, leaves and seed heads. Insects will be photographed and curated in alcohol for DNA sequencing and classical taxonomy. The information obtained by DNA sequencing of the CO1 mitochondrial gene will be blasted (a process that looks for the closest match of DNA) on GenBank to determine the closest genetic relative. This information can be used to select insects in phylogenetic groups that are known to be specialists and therefore possible biological control agents.