University of California

Posts Tagged: invasive

Pests present border threat

Spotted wing drosophilia was first detected in California in 2009. Here, a blackberry destroyed by SWD larva.
Dozens of foreign insects and plant diseases slipped undetected into the United States in the years after 9/11, when authorities were so focused on preventing another attack they overlooked a pest explosion that threatened the quality of the nation's food supply, the Associated Press reported today. The article was picked up by, CBS News and other national publications.

"Whether they know it or not, every person in the country is affected by this, whether by the quality or cost of their food, the pesticide residue on food or not being able to enjoy the outdoors because beetles are killing off the trees," said Mark Hoddle, an entomologist specializing in invasive species at the University of California, Riverside.

Springs rains blamed for sudden oak death increase
Guy Kovner, The (Santa Rosa) Press Democrat

The level of sudden oak death infection in Sonoma County and other parts of the Bay Area tripled over last year's rate, according to a survey conducted in June in nine counties from Humboldt to Monterey.

“It's a red flag,” said Matteo Garbelotto, head of UC Berkeley's forest pathology laboratory.

What sustainability means in agriculture
Amanda Radke, Tri-State Livestock News

Amada Radke reported on a panel discussion on agricultural sustainability, which took place at UC Davis in September. The panel included farmers, activists and the dean of the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Neal Van Alfen.

“There is so much debate and controversy among naturally-raised foods and conventionally-raised foods, and that's too bad, because one isn't always better than the other,” said Van Alfen. “If we don't make our system work, we are all in trouble. We have to figure out how to feed the world sustainably. Research is so important to help farmers reduce input costs and work to make organic foods more sustainable and efficient.”

Posted on Monday, October 10, 2011 at 10:31 AM

Beware of 'garden thugs'

The Sacramento Bee recently warned readers of certain plants that might at first appear to be lovely, delicate greenery, but in time can become the vegetative equivalent of a street gang viciously expanding its turf. The story was picked up yesterday by Scripps News Service.

The most notorious garden thugs, the story said, are bamboo and mint.

Ellen Zagory, the horticulture director for the UC Davis Arboretum, told reporter Debbie Arrington that she has neighbors with running bamboo, which means she has bamboo shoots constantly coming up in her own yard.

"It's really scary," she was quoted. "I've seen concrete patios where every little crack and seam had bamboo coming up. When I see some come up, I dig a big, long trench down as far as I can go and get as much as I can."

Arrington also spoke to the Sacramento County UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener coordinator Judy McClure, who nominated bee balm for the list of garden thugs.

"If you really like to divide plants and share them with others, you can grow bee balm," McClure was quoted. "But if not, it's incredibly invasive."

Other problem plants are vinca major, blackberries and Bermuda grass.

UC Master Gardener Bill Pierce added false strawberry to the list. The deep green ground cover with little yellow flowers and berrylike fruit has many Sacramento gardeners pulling their hair out as it rapidly invades lawns and flower beds.

"They're pretty shallow-rooted," McClure said of the false strawberry. "You've got to be diligent."

Some of the plants now considered to be invasive nuisances had in the past been recommended for low-water, low-maintenance gardens, the Bee article said.

"In particular, there's a lot of concern over Mexican feather grass," McClure said. "It's now considered an invasive plant (and a danger to wildlife areas)."

Pampas grass also falls in that category; its feathers broadcast seeds everywhere.

Drought-tolerant Mexican evening primrose, which is attractive to bees, butterflies and birds, was a hit in low-water gardens.

"It's so beautiful, so tough and doesn't need any water," Zagory was quoted. "But if you put it where it has water, it will take over the whole yard."

Mexican evening primrose is pretty, but can become an invasive weed.
Mexican evening primrose is pretty, but can become an invasive weed.

Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 9:12 AM
Tags: garden (38), invasive (3), Judy McClure (2)

Exotic stink bug threatens nearly nationwide damage

Brown marmorated stink bug (USDA photo)
Another pest has been added to the list of exotic insects that dishearten California farmers. The brown marmorated stink bug, a destructive native of Asia, has been seen this spring in 33 states, including California, Oregon and Washington, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

"All that we do know for certain is that a tremendously large population went into overwintering in fall 2010. So, if they survived, there could be a very large population emerging in the spring," the story quoted Tracy Leskey, a research entomologist at the U.S. Agriculture Department's Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, W.Va.

The stink bug will feed on almost anything, including cherries, tomatoes, grapes, lima beans, soybeans, green peppers, apples and peaches. When it feeds, it leaves behind an ugly spot that renders the fruit or vegetable unmarketable.

UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Stephen Vasquez and viticulture specialist Matt Fidelibus warned of the new pest's potential to harm California grape crops in a post to their new Viticulture blog. They wrote that damage can be substantial when BMSB populations are not identified early and managed appropriately. Growers and wineries are also concerned that the “stink” from any bugs accidentally crushed in wine or juice grapes could taint the product with off flavors.

"One might define this thing as the bug from hell," U.S. Congressman Roscoe Bartlett told the Chron. "If I was a mad scientist doing gene splicing and putting together a bug that would really be nasty and I was turning it loose on my enemy, I probably couldn't do a better job."

The Chronicle said the best hope for farmers that have brown marmorated stink bugs is the insecticide dinotefuran, the active ingredient in the commercial products Venom and Scorpion. The chemical compound is labeled by the Environmental Protection Agency for use on vegetables, grapes and cotton, but not in orchards, as it is in Japan and other Asian countries.

More information about the BMSB and current research is available in a streamed PowerPoint presentation by USDA's Lesky posted on the web.

Posted on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 10:59 AM
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