Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Predicting the perfect predator

Garlic mustard has become an invasive species in temperate forests across the United States, choking out native plants on forest floors and threatening ecosystem diversity.

University of Illinois ecologist Adam Davis has created a computer model that in combination with quarantined research tests he believes will be able to predict the perfect predator -- a pest that can be introduced into a forested area that will help reduce the garlic mustard population.

“The traditional method has been to release multiple agents into the environment and overwhelm the pest,” said Davis. “But with multiple introductions comes an increased likelihood that one of the agents will become invasive as well. So, what we’re trying to do is to figure out which one is the most likely to actually have an impact on garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and release as few agents as possible.”

Davis is a member of the research team for USDA’s Invasive Weed Management Unit at the U of I. He has been working since 2004 on a project along with scientists at Michigan State, Cornell, and the Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control in Switzerland.

Davis’ computer model creates a simulation of the population dynamics of the pest species – its seed and growth cycle, stressors, etc. “Then you can introduce the biological control agents that you’re considering one at a time and see whether you can get away with just introducing one agent,” said Davis. “I collected data from field experiments and entered them into the computer model which then projects forward which agent will be most effective.”

The computer simulation was used to select a tiny weevil, about the size of an “o” in 12 point type. “There are actually several weevils that feed on garlic mustard back home in Europe, where it comes from,” said Davis. “This particular weevil that we’re looking at (Ceutorhynchus scrobicollis) feeds on the plant at several stages in its life cycle so it’s a much more effective agent than some of the other ones.”

What happens if the control agent also becomes an invasive species?

“A stringent battery of tests is performed on each biocontrol agent in quarantine before it is ever released. For example, garlic mustard is in the same family (Brassicaceae) as cabbage, so one test might be to only feed the weevil cabbage and see if it survives on it or can reproduce on it. If it does, then the possibility exists that it could move from the garlic mustard and threaten cabbage plants, which we don’t want to happen. But, this particular weevil has passed that test for a wide variety of plants.”

Davis said that there are different strategies for biological control. One strategy is inundative in which the control agent eats its way through the garlic mustard and then dies out itself because there isn’t anything left to support it. The other strategy is to introduce a natural enemy that will just bring the population down to a lower level and the plants and pests just continue to coexist. “The idea is that you reunite plants with a natural enemy from back home – which in garlic mustard’s case is Europe. In Switzerland garlic mustard and the weevil coexist and neither one is invasive.”

Garlic mustard was brought to the United States from Europe innocently in the 1870’s as a culinary herb but its natural enemy didn’t accompany it.

Davis says there are some concerns among ecologists about biological control because of the risk of negative effects on nontarget species. “But when you have invasive plant species covering very large acreages it’s almost impossible to manage by hand,” he said. “There are herbicides that will work on garlic mustard, but it infests millions of acres of forest and there’s no way you can get out there and spray all of that. And because garlic mustard has a really long-lived seed bank, in order to eradicate it, you’d have to hit it for about eight to ten years in a row.”

Pending approval from APHIS-PPQ (the species evaluation and quarantine arm of the USDA) the weevil is scheduled to be released into an infested forest later this year. Davis said that the beauty of using simulation models to guide biocontrol is that this approach can be adapted for use in controlling other invasive species, not just garlic mustard.

Debra Levey Larson | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>