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Research Project: Biological Control in Integrated Weed Management of Invasive Weeds from Europe, Asia, and Africa

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Title: Host specificity and preliminary impact of Lepidapion argentatum (Coleoptera, Brentidae), a biocontrol candidate for French broom (Genisata monspessulana, Fabaceae)

item KERDELLANT, ELVEN - European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL)
item THOMANN, THIERRY - Csiro European Laboratory
item SHEPPARD, ANDY - Commonwealth Scientific And Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
item SFORZA, RENE - European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL)

Submitted to: Insects
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/26/2021
Publication Date: 7/31/2021
Citation: Kerdellant, E., Thomann, T., Sheppard, A., Sforza, R.F. 2021. Host specificity and preliminary impact of Lepidapion argentatum (Coleoptera, Brentidae), a biocontrol candidate for French broom (Genisata monspessulana, Fabaceae). Insects. 12(8), 691.

Interpretive Summary: French broom is a leguminous shrub that is an internationally significant invasive alien weed in California and nearby US states that competes with native vegetation and increases the risk of wildfires. French broom originates from the Mediterranean region and is the target for classical biological control. Exploration for prospective biological control agents in the native region of Western Europe resulted in the collection of the weevil Lepidapion argentatum. We conducted preliminary field studies showing that this weevil can impact seed production in the native habitat. We also measured the specificity of this candidate biocontrol agent in laboratory conditions on 36 plant species growing in California and Australia. Our data showed that in no-choice tests, seven species were directly negatively impacted by gall formation induced on plant stems by the weevil, but at different levels, including two lupine species commonly distributed in California. Further experiments are needed to ascertain the safety of this candidate biocontrol agent prior to release.

Technical Abstract: French broom (Genista monspessulana) (Fabaceae) is a perennial species native to the Mediterranean basin. Introduced in the 19th century as an ornamental plant, it is currently invasive in California and Australia. The current research is focused on biocontrol with the use of the phytophagous weevil Lepidapion argentatum (Brentidae). Its capacity to develop both in the stem galls and pods of French broom makes it a promising candidate. The impact on the reproduction of French broom was studied in Southern France and revealed that it could effectively reduce the number of viable seeds by 18.8%, but also increased the number of aborted seeds by 10% within the attacked pods. To evaluate the specificity of L. argentatum, choice and no-choice tests were performed in 2012 and 2015 on a total of 36 non-target closely related species. Results revealed the presence of galls and larvae in the stems of seven species, including two endemic Californian lupines, i.e. Lupinus arboreus blue and Lupinus chamissonis. In the future, new tests will be conducted to determine if L. argentatum is able to complete its entire development lifecycle on the non-target species where galls have previously been observed.