Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What is going on for Earth Day?

Do you know what the history of Earth Day is?  Find out on Earth Day: Facts & History

Want to know what is going on in your area?  Earth Day Events or Earth Day 2015

Did you know that one way that farmers protect the environment is through conservation tillage and cover crops?  By reducing the amount of tillage and planting cover crops when the field is fallow, the top soil is protected from erosion.  Some farmers will even leave the cover crop stubble or flatten the cover crop and plant into small strips, which can reduce soil erosion and the use of certain pesticides and fertilizers.

Peanut (Arachis hypogaea) by Steve L. Brown, University of Georgia,

To learn more about cover crops and conservation tillage programs: Cover Crops for Conservation Tillage Systems

A great video showing the soil differences between conventional tillage and no-till by University of Wisconsin: Long-Term Conventional and No-tillage Systems Compared

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Zebra Mussel Infestation Successfully Treated; No Mussels Found in Christmas Lake, MN

Like with any invasive infestation, early detection gives the opportunity for an effective control plan and potential eradication.  Current efforts for the invasive zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) have focused on prevention of the spread, as there haven't been breakthroughs for a prescription control plan yet.

zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha) by Michael Massimi, Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program,

After discovering a small, isolated population in Christmas Lake, MN, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources implemented a three step plan to rid the lake of the mussels.  The first step was to use Zequanox, a derivative of a bacteria that is selective for zebra and quagga mussels.  The Zequanox was applied in September and then in October and November, EarthTec QZ, a liquid copper treatment labeled for zebra and quagga mussels, was applied.  Finally, in December, 1,000 pounds of potash (potassium chloride) was applied under the ice near the public boat access.  Use of this treatment plan, specifically the EarthTec and potash, required special emergency permission due to the treatment being off-label.

As of April 13, no zebra mussels were found in Christmas Lake.  Beginning in May, MN DNR and Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) will scout the lake and shoreline for zebra mussels and will also place zebra mussel samplers at public boat access areas and on participating homeowner's docks.  It will still be years of negative surveys before that zebra mussel population can be declared eliminated.

For the press release: Divers confirm effective treatment of Christmas Lake zebra mussels

Monday, April 20, 2015

New pine beetle discovered in Central America: Mesoamerican pine beetle

Called the Mesoamerican pine beetle (Dendroctonus mesoamericanus), it is in the same genus as southern pine beetle, a destructive bark beetle that attacks several species of pine.  After suspecting the existence of a new species of bark beetle in 2002, subsequent pheromone and body wax chemistry definitively proved the new species.  In fact, the Mesoamerican pine beetle don't response to pheromone traps baited for southern pine beetle.

southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) by Erich G. Vallery, USDA Forest Service - SRS-4552,

The Mesoamerican pine beetle looks very similar to the southern pine beetle, but, in addition to the chemical differences, the Mesoamerican pine beetle tends to be larger and has other subtle morphological differences, the resinous pitch tubes on infested trees are also larger, they tend to infest the trees after they have already been colonized by southern pine beetles, and they are found in the lower trunk and branches.  They have been found on eight species of pines in Central America and are believed to work in concert with southern pine beetles.  The combination of beetles on infested trees tends to be more destructive than those infested by southern pine beetle alone.

southern pine beetle pitch tubes by Erich G. Vallery, USDA Forest Service - SRS-4552,

For more on the discovery: New Mesoamerican pine beetle described by scientists
To access the original publication: A New Species of Bark Beetle, Dendroctonus mesoamericanus
sp. nov. (Curculionidae: Scolytinae), in Southern Mexico and Central America

Friday, April 17, 2015

Wanted! Reports of Chinaberry!

It certainly is a great time of year to find invasives!  Chinaberry (Melia azedarach) is in full bloom and so it's a good time to map it.  As warm weather moves up the country, mappers in the more northern states keep a look out in the coming weeks for these distinctive trees and flowers.

chinaberry (Melia azedarach) by Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental,
Chinaberry is a tree that is commonly found along road and forest edges and in disturbed areas.  Here in the south I have noticed it most at the edges of agricultural fields.

chinaberry (Melia azedarach) by Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia,
The leaves are alternate and twice- to three-times compound with serrated leaflet edges.   In the fall, the leaves will turn golden-yellow.

chinaberry (Melia azedarach) by Emily Earp,,
The flowers are blooming now and are showy, lavender, and have five petals.  These will turn into fruit which are the size of marbles and are on long stalks.  These will be seen best after the leaves fall in late autumn to early winter and are readily spread by birds.

EDDMapS is always looking to fill in the gaps on the distribution maps.  So if you see a blank county where you know chinaberry can be found, run out and map it using one of the BugwoodApps! The SEEDN app is an app for reporting invasive species occurrences for the southeastern U.S. and is available on iOS (Apple products) and Android devices. If you don't have a smartphone, tablet, or other such device, you can report findings through EDDMapS. Remember to take a picture of the plants you find with your report! Once your reports are verified, it will color in the map where data is currently missing. Happy scouting!

To view distribution maps of chinaberry: Chinaberry distribution
For identification information and other resources on chinaberry: Chinaberry information
To view images of chinaberry: Chinaberry images

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Calling all Mappers! Japanese Honeysuckle is Blooming!

While out walking on Sunday I noticed that the Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is in full bloom here in south Georgia! Seemingly out of nowhere, the days have gotten longer and the temperature has started to really creep up.

Japanese honeysuckle is an invasive flowering vine that has taken over large swathes of the U.S.  It has opposite leaves and flowers.  The flowers occur in pairs at the leaf axils and will often turn from white to a soft yellow as they age.

Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) by Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia,

EDDMapS is Bugwood's website for mapping and reporting invasive species nationwide.  It includes data from all types of sources, herbariums to homeowners and federal agencies to citizen scientist programs.  It relies on accurate and quality reports of invasive species occurrences to fill in the maps  and to show a complete distribution of a species.  As Japanese honeysuckle is most easily seen when it is flowering, help us fill in the gaps on the map in the next several weeks!

The easiest way to report where you find Japanese honeysuckle is to use one of the BugwoodApps! The SEEDN app is an app for reporting invasive species occurrences for the southeastern U.S. and is available on iOS (Apple products) and Android devices. If you don't have a smartphone, tablet, or other such device, you can report findings through EDDMapS. Remember to take a picture of the plants you find with your report! Once your reports are verified, it will color in the map where data is currently missing. Happy scouting!

To view distribution maps of Japanese honeysuckle: Japanese honeysuckle distribution
For identification information and other resources on Japanese honeysuckle: Japanese honeysuckle information
To view images of Japanese honeysuckle: Japanese honeysuckle images

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New plant virus in North America, virus family know for diseases in corn, wheat, and sugarcane

Tentatively called the switchgrass mosaic-associated virus 1, it is a member of the mastrevirus genus.  Mosaic virus symptoms are usually a discoloration of plant parts, the specific pattern, affect parts, or coloration varies by the virus, and can also cause stunting, poor yield, and even plant death.

Alfalfa Mosaic Virus (Alfamovirus AMV) on potato by Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University,
As viruses are little more than genetic material wrapped in a protective protein coat, they are classified by their genome.  To be included in the mastrevirus genus, the virus must share at least 75% of the genome with another mastrevirus.  Previously described mastreviruses have been found in Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia and have been responsible for reduced yield in corn, wheat, and sugarcane. Mastreviruses are primarily transmitted through leafhoppers and as such, the prevalence of infected crops rise and fall with leafhopper populations.  As this is a newly described virus, the current spread of it is unknown, as well as the vector, and has at this time only been found in switchgrass.

The article describing the discovery: First report of a new crop virus in North America