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Subject: Combating two invasive weeds with biological control
Date posted: February 01, 2002
Source: Agricultural Research Service
The Old World climbing fern, Lygodium microphyllum, is native to Australia, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa. It also currently infests more than 100,000 acres in Florida. Climbing fern blankets trees and, on the ground, grows into impenetrable mats that can easily smother grasses, low-growing shrubs, and small trees. For the past few years, researchers have been conducting tests on two moth species that could possibly serve as effective biological control agents against L. microphyllum. The tests, which are nearing completion, suggest that Cataclysta camptozonale and Neomusotima conspurcatalis are relatively host-specific and appear to pose little threat to native species of fern. Further tests with ferns found in the Caribbean, as well as Central and South America, still need to be conducted.

Tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum; TSA), considered a noxious weed, is a resilient exotic pest found in pastures, row crops, forests and urban areas throughout the southeastern U.S. First observed in Florida in 1988, the TSA infestation grew from 2,000 acres to more than 1 million in six years. While mechanical eradication mechanisms are working well to halt the spread of TSA, researchers in South America may have found a biological control agent in the tortoise beetle, Gratiana boliviana. This beetle species is fecund, long-lived and appears to be highly specific to TSA, either avoiding or reproducing poorly on other nightshade species.

These stories were found in the Agricultural Research magazine, found on-line at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jan02/