A UF/IFAS research team found a natural enemy of cogongrass on the other side of the world.
A pervasive weed in Florida and the southeastern U.S., cogongrass, may have met its match, thanks to an international research team led by UF/IFAS entomology professor James Cuda and retired entomology professor Bill Overholt. The team explored insects and other arthropods from around the world, looking for natural foes of the “noxious weed that elbows out pasture grass, golf course greens and valuable ecosystems,” according to a UF/IFAS release on the research. Read a summary of what they found below.
A Cogongrass Foe
The team located various arthropods in locales in Asia and Africa that “might help in the battle against cogongrass,” according to the UF/UFAS piece. The most promising seems to be a midge from Indonesia. Midges are small flies.
According to the UF/IFAS article, the midge, Orseolia javanica, eats cogongrass. The midge’s feeding “causes cogongrass to produce linear galls at the expense of leaves.”
The weed is an invasive pest for many industries in Florida, so finding something that will harm cogongrass is important. “This invasive grass infests cattle pastures, golf courses, lawns and also thrives in poor soil conditions such as ditch banks, roadside and railroad rights-of-way as well as reclaimed phosphate mining areas,” Cuda is quoted as saying in the UF/IFAS article. Cogongrass is especially troublesome because the weed grows quickly and changes the way the habitats it invades work.
Unfortunately, the specimens the team brought back to the quarantine facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, Florida, did not reproduce, meaning the team will first have to study the insect before assessing how the flies may be able to fight cogongrass. Current controls for the weed include herbicides and mowing, so the midge may offer a more eco-friendly, natural biological control.
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Photo courtesy of elaine ross baylon.