Archive for July 17th, 2009

Biological Control for Salt Cedar

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Passport to Texas from Texas Parks and Wildlife

So, there’s the beetles…and there’s some egg sacks in there.

That’s Mike Janis, a natural resource specialist at the Matador WMA in the Texas Panhandle, opening a container of 200 salt cedar leaf beetles from the USDA. In early June, researchers released one-third of the insects at Matador, hoping they will multiply and devour troublesome salt cedar trees—a water-thirsty non-native that’s overtaken about half of a million acres in Texas.

The salt cedar was introduced to the U.S. in 19th century to control riverbank erosion. But, Chip Ruthven, leader of the project, says the cedars became a problem in themselves.

It forms dense thickets and out-competes native plants, which are generally highly beneficial to wildlife from a food and a cover standpoint. Then they’re also heavy water users as well.

Jerry Michels is a research professor at the Texas AgriLife Extension. His team has been trying to establish a beetle population in the panhandle near Meredith Lake.

We’re hoping, we’re optimistic that this summer might be the year that they really explode up here.

Researchers don’t expect problems with beetles destroying other plant communities because they’re picky eaters. They only eat salt cedars. The beetles seem to be a cheap, effective tool to keep salt cedars in check, but Michels says beetles alone won’t terminate the trees.

I think that salt cedar control if it is going to be effective is going to have to be a combination of different techniques.

Such as herbicides and bulldozing. That’s our show…with research and writing help from Gretchen Mahan. For Texas Parks and Wildlife I’m Cecilia Nasti.