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ARS Home » Plains Area » Sidney, Montana » Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory » Pest Management Research » Research » Research Project #436305

Research Project: Combining Large-scale Ecological, Genetic, and Insect Agent Data to Improve Leafy Spurge Management through Biocontrol

Location: Pest Management Research

Project Number: 3032-21220-003-05-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 15, 2019
End Date: Dec 31, 2021

Objective:
To better understand the degree to which biocontrol reduces the size of weed infestations, the best agents for particular habitats, ecological limits on biocontrol success, Cooperator will aid in quantifying the current status of leafy spurge infestations and biocontrol agent communities at historical biocontrol release sites.

Approach:
We will quantify variation in agent presence, spurge infestation (patch size, density and frequency), and patch genetic structure across a broad spatial area in North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho. We will select a range of previous biological control release sites that vary across habitat conditions identified in previous studies: 1) sandy soils; 2) increased soil moisture; and 3) shade (canopy openness). Replicating conditions within states will allow us to gauge variation at scales similar to previous studies. Replicating across states will ensure we have sampled a large gradient that should reduce the influence of site-specific variation. Cooperator will visit historical biocontrol release sites in western Montana to provide samples of and data on: 1) the relative abundance and density of leafy spurge infestations, to relate biocontrol agent presence with spurge prevalence. 2) biocontrol agent communities and abundance, to look at variation in agent success across sites. 3) leafy spurge leaf samples, to identify the taxonomic and genetic structure variation within the spurge invasion. 4) soil samples and vegetation surveys, to characterize habitat variation among sites.