Biological Control of Russsian Olive (_Elaeagnus angustifolia_): Feasibility Study

Project ID: 3743
Principal Investigator: Fred Nibling
Research Topic: Invasive Species
Funded Fiscal Years: 2005
Keywords: None

Research Question

* Do natural enemies (insects, pathogens) exist within the native distribution of Russian olive that could be introduced and that would control Russian olive in the United States?

* What is the area of origin and native distribution of Russian olive in the Old World?

* What is the host range of the _psyllid Megasetosa spp._ that damages Russian olive in Xijiang, China, and its potential for introduction into the United States for control of Russian olive?

Need and Benefit

Note: This is listed as a feasibility study, but due to the heavy involvement required by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and cooperating foreign scientists, the costs are higher than the $10, 000 - $15, 000 normally assigned to feasibility studies. Currently, there are not any biocontrol insects that are permitted for Russian olive. Discovery and developing of biological organisms takes many years to accomplish. In addition, there is urgency to gain this information sooner to take advantage of potential funding from the Domenici Bill (S. 1516), which lists Russian olive along with salt cedar as important invasive species. The above course although more costly, initially, is needed due to the importance of rapidly gaining the information. Another possibility (although not very satisfactory) is to spread this effort out over a number of years beginning at $15, 000 for the first year and increasing for several years, thereafter.

Russian olive is the second most damaging invasive weed of riparian ecosystems of the Western United States, after salt cedar. Water consumption by this plant is believed to be equal to that of salt cedar. It is rapidly invading riparian habitats of the Western United States, mostly north of the 37th parallel, but it appears to be spreading southward. It is a serious pest in central New Mexico. It is a heavy water consumer similar to salt cedar (tamarisk), and it blocks water delivery channels and rights of way. It also produces dense thorny thickets that displace native plant communities and degrade wildlife habitat and livestock grazing, lounging and watering areas. Control with herbicides or mechanical methods are very expensive and very damaging to associated native plant communities.

Biological control, if feasible, would potentially offer inexpensive, permanent, self-sustaining, and environmentally friendly control that would allow recovery of native plant and animal communities.

Existing resources and funding from Reclamation or external sources (biological control of weeds researchers at USDA-ARS or Universities) are presently inadequate to solve a problem of this magnitude, which requires overseas research, quarantine testing of natural enemies within the United States, and release and monitoring of control agents and of environmental effects at multiple locations in the United States.

Contributing Partners

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 6/22/20