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Ecocompatible strategies to control weeds and insect pests







moth on c. crystallinum

Trip to Canary Islands (January 24- February 02, 2023)
by M. Cristofaro and F. Di Cristina
Canary islands have subtropical climatic conditions and in some of the islands (Fuerteventura) the wind can be an important biotic factor, especially for taller plants or for insects like butterflies. Our target was to look for and Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum and Cryophytum crystallinum. We decided to concentrate our research in the 2 largest islands, Tenerife and Fuerteventura: the first has higher mountains and is greener, while Fuerteventura has small elevations and it is dry and windy. In Fuerteventura recorded feeding of moth larvae on M. nodiflorum and young instars of scale insects on the roots; also found 2 weevil adults and several big larvae feeding on the roots (Cleonini, probably Temnorhinus sp.). On Cryophytum crystallinum collected two moth larvae feeding on the flowers and one pupa. Found and collected one adult of a noctuid moth, feeding and resting only on M. nodiflorum flowers. In Tenerife found large populations both of M. nodiflorum and C. crystallinum but most of them without damages. Collected some M. nodiflorum plants in budding stage to verify the presence of midges; on C. crystallinum collected 10 noctuid moth larvae feeding on the stamens and pistil of the flowers.


Field report Egypt (March 05-12, 2023)
by M. Cristofaro, R. Sforza and F. Di Cristina
In this trip we traveled in the Northern Part of the Country, West and East of Alexandria. We received the greater support of Soliman Toto, a Botanist of the University of Alexandria. Main target of our survey was the collection of potential biocontrol candidate agents of Sahara mustard (Brassica tournefortii, BRTO) and plant samples of two ice plant species, Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum (MENO) and Cryophytum crystallinum (CCRY); R. Sforza also made some leaf sampling on the new potential project cogongrass (Imperata cylindica). At the end of this trip we recorded a large distribution of both species of ice plants, even if CCRY was much more abundant. Regarding C. crystallinum, we recorded the species in 11 sites. M. nodiflorum was found (and collected) in 3 sites, always in sympatric conditions with C. crystallinum. We never recorded any feeding damage associated to arthropods on both ice plant species, but we found in 3 sites a large population of a big weevil. For Sahara mustard, we found at least 2 different species of potential candidate agent, both of them at larval stages: one external root-feeding weevil and one root-crown boring young instar larva (very small).


Trip to Morocco (April 13-18, 2023)
by M. Cristofaro and F. Di Cristina
Target of this trip was to record and collect ice plants species Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum (MENO) and Cryophytum crystallinum (CCRY), and also Salsola sp. At the end, we recorded more than 17 sites with the target ice-plants (green or reddish, very often in blooming). Despite to the fact that last year (in March) we found more C. crystallinum than M. nodiflorum, this year was the opposite: MENO was extremely common, while CCRY was concentered only in a small region (from Sidi Ifni to North towards Agadir). In addition, we recorded 2 potential biocontrol candidates on MENO (one of them -the weevil- very common). The impact of the weevil larvae was more evident on small plants, probably because the presence of root damaging larvae depends from the soil type (no good sites on sandy areas, soil was quite hard, full of little stones). The damage done on MENO by the leaf feeding moth is interesting, but with less impact. Finally, the damage we recorded on the flowers of CCRY was identical of the damage made by the moth larva we recorded on the flowers of the same species in Tenerife.  

Trip to Greece (April 22-29, 2023)
by M. Cristofaro and S. Arnone
This early survey in the Meteora area showed that the weevil Pachythychius spp. is very common on Bromus (= Anisantha) sterilis (to be confirmed), present -but not abundant- on cheatgrass, while absolutely absent on wheat, barley, wild oat and false barley. The decision to make an early survey during the last week of April was very good (except for the midge Stenodiplosis spp.): excellent timing to collect mating Pachytychius sp. Moreover, it was possible to find a new interesting agent (probably a midge), producing an import impact on the stem: if the host specificity will be confirmed, it would be probably the best candidate agent we have detected so far for the biological control of Bromus tectorum.

Field report Armenia (May 18-24, 2023)
by M. Cristofaro, R. Bonopera, M. Volkovitsh, R. Dolgovskaya and M. Kalashian
The route of this trip had stop-over in Garni, in Aragats and near the Armenian churches at Noravank Gorge. We found a good population of Acroptilon repens (Mark collected about 20 samples of a new species of the flea-weevil Pseudorchestes sp. and recorded and collected rust (Uromyces sp.) on the leaves and on the stems of the same target weed. Also found 3 root-boring moth larvae on A. repens plants showing clear symptoms of weakness: very important damage. Found a good population of Bromus tectorum: collected flower samples to verify the eventual presence of the seed-galling midge and/or the seed feeder weevil. On B. tectorum, also recorded the presence of a seed pathogen (probably smut). Also recorded a good population of Taeniatherium caput-medusae: collected spike samples as we did for Bromus tectorum. Found an excellent infestation rate of Oporopsamma larvae in the roots of Chondrilla juncea and recorded a green Lepidoptera larva feeding on the leaves of the same weed. Collected 15 Pseudorchestes weevils and roughly 30 A. repens plants with the roots infested by the moth larva.


Field report from Greece (May 25-29, 2023)
by M. Cristofaro and F. Di Cristina
Harvesting sites of this trip were around Kalambaka and Vlachava. We checked the target site for Bromus tectorum,  
collected about 30 plants still -partially- green. Checked the plants nearby looking for the presence of adults of the weevil Pachytychius spp. on B. tectorum and other wild grass species (without success). Collected B. tectorum spikes with the presence of adults of the midge (Stenodiplosis tectori) and of the Pachytychius weevil. Found near Vlachava one additional cheatgrass plant with 2 pupae of the root crown galling midge Mayetiola sp.


Field report Bulgaria (June 11- 15, 2023)
by M. Guedj and F. Di Cristina 
Stop-over of this trip were on the road from Plovdiv to Parvomay, in Susam (few Km before Mineralni Bani), in Starosel, near town of Samokov at Maritsa. Found a good population of Centaurea solstitialis infested with some Larinus filiformis, Eustenopus villosus, Larinus curtus, Lixus scolopax and Bangasternus sp. Found also one plant of Chondrilla juncea with rush. Found also a population of green Taeniatherium caput-medusae. Meeting at the University of Plovdiv with V. Haritzanova, N. Stoeva and B. Rector.  Collected samples of both plants Anisantha tectorum and Taenatherium caput-medusa. Found a large population of green Bromus tectorum.


Field report Armenia (July 24-30, 2023)
by F. Marini, M. G. Volkovitsh, M. Dolgovskaya, M. Kalashian
We started the trip from Yerevan: the first day, stop-over about 25 Km north-west from Yerevan, nearby Agarak village. Our focus was on Chondrilla juncea: the target is quite abundant, and the soil is sandy, so it is relatively easy to dig; collected about 62 Oporopsamma pupae from roots; collected some Schinia cognata larvae and adults. Second stop-over of the day about 20 Km in the direction of Talin: C. juncea is not very abundant, found only few S. cognata adults and larvae, no sawfly larvae found. Found a good spot along the main road, where we were able to collect 26 sawfly larvae, a potential parasitized sawfly larva (during the day some parasitoids emerged and they were stored in EtOH 70%). The second day, stop-over about 30 Km south-east of Yerevan, nearby Azat Reservoir, where we focused our attention on Acroptilon repens: the target is quite abundant, collected and dissected roots for about 3h to obtain about 9 roots infested by moth larvae; most of the roots dissected were damaged but empty; found also a couple of Buprestid larvae in the roots. Also collected some ticks. We searched for the root boring weevil on Salsola tragus plants present at the site and we found a couple adult weevils, some larvae and a pupa. Third day spent exploring the Ararat province. We stopped at a site about 70 km south-east of Yerevan, nearby Urts’Adzor village. Many of our usual targets were present at the site (i.e. Chondrilla juncea, Centaurea sosltitialis, Acroptilon repens, Taeniatherium caput-medusae, Bromus tectorum). C. solstitialis is very abundant at the site, but most of the plants were from the last year, on the few from this season we found only a single weevil adult, but opening the mature capitula we found several weevil larvae, pupae and some adults almost ready to emerge. Still inside of a C. soslstitialis  capitulum we found a parasitoid. The last day we stopped a couple of kilometers closer to Talin: collected about 12 sawfly larvae, to increase the chances to obtain some adults, a couple of parasitized sawfly larvae (stored in an empty vial waiting for the emerging of the adults), a S. cognata adult, a couple of rounded cocoons on C. juncea stems guesting a weevil pupae. Finally, we went back nearby Agarak village and collected additional 17 larvae and 3 adults of S. cognata.      


Trip to Pantelleria Island (October 11-14, 2023)
by A. Paolini and M. Guedj
Goal of the trip was to check the sites for Bagrada hilaris on Capparis spinosa. South of Scauri we collected some Bagrada specimens (mostly nymphs). Collected many Bagrada specimens at the Cooperativa site, then at the site Rekale basso: the infestation rate is very high in this place (a lot of insects on very damaged caper plants).

Trip to South Africa (October 30 – November 14, 2023)
by M. Cristofaro, F. Di Cristina, P. Moran, I. Paterson and E. Sandenbergh
The BBCA experience during this field travel in South Africa was extremely positive: we were working in an area completely new for us and we were facing with a biodiversity (in particular for ice plants) that was absolutely outstanding: thousands of different species of the Family Azioaceae are present in  the 3 Regions (Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape) we visited. We collected definitely an excellent stem boring weevil on Cryophytum (Mesembryanthemum) crystallinum, and a root feeding weevil on Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum. Moreover, we recorded an important damage on the flower buds and fruits of both ice plant species made by moth larvae (at least 2 species, probably Noctuidae). Finally, we also found important pathogen infections (different rust genotypes) on the two target ice plant species.  Hopefully, P. Moran and the South African scientist will detect other potential agents during the dissection of a large collection of plant material brought at the facilities of Rhodes University.





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