Location: Tick and Biting Fly Research
Project Number: 6205-32000-031-42
Start Date: Jan 30, 2013
End Date: Sep 30, 2016
USDA-ARS, Edinburg, TX, will take the lead on this research in collaboration with the ARS European Biological Control Laboratory in Montpellier, France. The research evaluates the field impact of both arundo wasps and arundo scale insects (from Europe) on A. donax on the Rio Grande. Most of the field work will take place in the USDA-APHIS permanent quarantine zone for the cattle fever tick, where A. donax is invasive and provides an optimum habitat for survival of this serious livestock pest. One of the key measures of success for the biological control program will be an increase in visibility caused by reduction in above-ground A. donax biomass. Visibility measures through the infested and un-infested stands of A. donax under daylight conditions will be used to evaluate any changes in vegetation density that increase visibility or line of sight of the Rio Grande. Research to improve mass rearing of the arundo scale will be conducted to increase the number and quality of scale for release at the field sites in Del Rio, Laredo, Los Indios, and other sites as designated by DHS. Farmland operated by USDA-ARS in Weslaco, TX, will be used to mass rear the arundo scale. Newly emerged arundo scale crawlers will be released at field sites by USDA aircraft to maintain their vigor and increase impact. Lastly, work will continue to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the third candidate biological control agent, the arundo leaf miner. This research includes, biological studies, host range testing, pre-release impact studies and other information needed by the TAG (Technical Advisory Group for Biological Control of Weeds) and USDA-APHIS in order to gain approval for the release of the leaf miner for release in North America. ARS will collaborate with Texas Agrilife, the University of Texas - Pan American, and Instituto Mexicano de Tecnologia de Aguas to extend the benefits of the program throughout the Rio Grande Basin.