Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Sidney, Montana » Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory » Pest Management Research » Research » Research Project #439525

Research Project: Biological Control and Habitat Restoration for Invasive Weed Management

Location: Pest Management Research

Project Number: 3032-21220-003-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Dec 17, 2020
End Date: Dec 16, 2025

Objective 1: Determine the taxonomic identity, origins, evolutionary relationships, reproductive strategies, and/or population genetic information of target invasive weeds, such as bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), African rue (Peganum harmala), houndstongue (Cynoglossum officinale), leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula/virgata), whitetop (Lepidium draba), and flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus). Subobjective 1.A: Determine correct taxonomy (Euphorbia complex) and native origins (Euphorbia complex, flowering rush) to support the successful development of classical biological control programs. Subobjective 1.B: Determine the population structure (African rue, bindweed, houndstongue, Euphorbia complex) and reproductive strategies (bindweed, Euphorbia complex) ) and hybrids (Euphorbia complex, whitetop) to support the successful development of classical biological control programs. Objective 2: Improve selection criteria and implementation of biological control agents of the targeted invasive weeds. Subobjective 2.A: Identify demographic and habitat factors associated with management impacts on Russian olive and whitetop populations. Subobjective 2.B: Disentangle large-scale variation in agent and weed distributions to improve biological control implementation and integrated weed management of leafy spurge (Euphorbia complex). Objective 3: Develop effective community restoration technology for disturbed and weed impacted areas. Subobjective 3.A: Determine priority tools and strategies for effective restoration of riparian ecosystems after Russian olive control. Objective 3.B: Determine impacts on pollinator communities after renovation of exotic cool season grasses to functional CRP.

Weeds cost U.S. agriculture billions of dollars annually in lost production and control costs. The goal of our project is to decrease weed abundance by increasing the efficacy of biological control agent development and improving the establishment success of plant community restorations that resist invasion. Our team’s research spans multiple aspects of weed control, from taxonomy required for effective development of weed management strategies, demographic and ecological research to optimize biological control management efficacy, and identification of inputs required to support productive invasion-resistant landscapes. We will address critical gaps in genotype-specific information regarding the reproductive strategies, origin and invasiveness of some of the most important invasive weeds in the U.S., thus guiding effective control methods including effective biological control. We will identify ecological and demographic factors limiting invasion potential for weeds targeted for biological control. This will generate strategies to limit target weed spread and provide a general framework of biologically- and ecologically-based weed control methods. We will also create realistic targets for restoration that benefit landscapes. This work develops science-based, economical weed management that reduces costs, promotes food security and minimizes negative environmental impacts of traditional weed control. We focus on rangeland weeds in the Northern Great Plains and extend this research nationally across a range of habitats. By communicating our results through on-going relationships with land management agencies, farmers and ranchers, academic societies, industry and state extension services, this research supports innovative strategies vital to the sustainability and health of U.S. agroecosystems.