Environment

Weed-eating Eurasian mites to be released in Canada

Weed-eating Eurasian mites to ...
An invasive Russian olive, showing damage from an infestation of Aceria angustifoliae mites
An invasive Russian olive, showing damage from an infestation of Aceria angustifoliae mites
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An invasive Russian olive, showing damage from an infestation of Aceria angustifoliae mites
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An invasive Russian olive, showing damage from an infestation of Aceria angustifoliae mites
A test plot of Russian olive plants in Iran
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A test plot of Russian olive plants in Iran

It can be challenging, trying to selectively kill off an invasive plant that grows in amongst non-target native species. A new initiative is aiming to do just that, however, by introducing a weed-eating mite into the Canadian environment.

The plant in question, the Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), is a small deciduous tree native to southeastern Europe and Asia.

In the 19th century, European settlers began bringing it into the US and Canada for use as a shade tree and windbreak. Since then, it has spread throughout numerous American states and Canadian provinces, where it crowds out native plants, reduces nesting sites for birds, changes soil chemistry, and otherwise disrupts the ecological balance.

Starting in 2007, an international team of scientists – from the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI), Serbia's University of Belgrade, and Iran's Ferdowsi University – began exploring the use of mites to control Russian olives.

More specifically, the researchers looked to a mite known as Aceria angustifoliae, which occurs naturally in the plant's area of origin. Every spring, the arachnids feed on the shoots, flowers and fruits of Russian olive plants. Depending on the extent of the damage, this activity may kill the plants, or at least reduce their rate of growth.

A test plot of Russian olive plants in Iran
A test plot of Russian olive plants in Iran

In outdoor experiments conducted in Iran and CABI's home country of Switzerland, it was determined that the A. angustifoliae mites target a very narrow range of plants, likely only going after the Russian olive in natural field conditions.

Based on these findings, in 2019 CABI teamed up with two scientists – Dr. Rosemarie De Clerck-Floate from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), and the University of Wyoming's Dr. Tim Collier – to petition for release of the mites in North America. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has now granted permission for that to happen within Canada, under the authority of the Canadian Plant Protection Act.

It is hoped that the first releases will take place next spring, likely beginning in the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, where wild-growing Russian olives are particularly problematic.

"Permission to release Aceria angustifoliae in Canada is a major step forward to having a viable biological control to tackle Russian olive in Canada and, perhaps in time, other parts of North America," said CABI's Dr. Philip Weyl.

The research is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal Biocontrol Science and Technology.

Source: CABI

20 comments
20 comments
windykites
Let Canada try it out first! These experiments are always risky. Cane toads in Australia spring to mind.
DOC HOLLYWOOD
What could possibly go wrong?
Lamar Havard
Some people down here in the lower Southeast are bothered by kudzu taking over the hollows and roadside trees, but usually those people don't know that the roots and tender leaves are edible, and jelly can be made from the flowers. It's generally not thought of as a good source of food for humans, yet a large number of compounds have been derived from Russian olive making this tree a good source of flavonoids, alkaloids, minerals and vitamins. 'Invasive', yes, but also useful, if you have the means.
CAVUMark
It is not nice to fool with mother nature. Oops... too late.
stb
What could possibly go wrong:/
michael_dowling
Yes,think very,very carefully. European rabbits were released in Australia so wealthy landowners had something to hunt. Now they are probably the world's worst case of what happens when an invasive species is introduced to an environment totally unprepared for it. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/how-european-rabbits-took-over-australia/
Rick O
I would have to be pretty desperate to try such a method. Although, if they could eliminate the Japanese Knot Weed taking over part of my backyard, I would be tempted...
FB36
I am pretty sure that many animal/plant species were migrating around, even long before humans!
Which animal/plant species allowed to live where is NOT up to humans to decide!
If any new species causing serious problems then the solution is restore the local balance, by finding & bringing-in best possible natural enemies!
It is definitely not, endlessly keep trying to kill new species by using poison chemicals or traps etc & keep wasting massive amounts of taxpayer money, for only temporary improvements!
Paul Cooper
Great. Now if they could find a mite for Scotch Broom? Please?
Nelson Hyde Chick
How many times have we introduced a foreign lifeform into a place to solve a problem just to cause a worse problem?
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