Air Potato Biological Control program seeking collaborators

The Florida Department of Agriculture has an active biological control program for air potato, Dioscorea bulbifera, that has been implemented successfully throughout Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. They are mass-producing a chrysomelid beetle, Lilioceris cheni, which feeds mainly on the foliage along with some feeding of the weed’s aerial propagules.  This beetle has been shown to be highly specific to this single yam species.  Significant impacts have been noticed in total vine-length, propagule mass, and increases in plant diversity on sites that have L. cheni populations controlling this weed.  Additionally, there is another beetle species, L. egena, with larvae that develop within the aerial propagules which has recently been submitted to TAG for approval and may be available in the coming year as well.

The team is trying to identify collaborators throughout the southeastern states where air potato can be found to work with us in controlling this noxious weed.  Currently, funding is in place to cover the rearing and shipment of these beetles; they need assistance to: identify infestation sites, release beetles and monitor for establishment/impact. Likely, air potato has died down for the winter and it may be difficult to identify smaller infestations at this time.  However, the growing season will be arriving soon. If you are interested, the team will work with you to obtain all of the necessary permits and later coordinate beetle shipment(s) once infestation sites have been identified as actively growing.  If you are interested in collaborating on this project or have any questions regarding the biological control program please contact Christopher Kerr, biological scientist with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services  at Christopher.Kerr@freshfromflorida.com. 

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