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Environ Manage. 1999 Feb;23(2):241-256.

Biological Control of Water Hyacinth Under Conditions of Maintenance Management: Can Herbicides and Insects Be Integrated?

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  • 1US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Aquatic Plant Control Research 3205 College Ave. Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33314, USA


/ We hypothesized that repeated herbicidal (maintenance) control of water hyacinth infestations in Florida suppressed biological control agent populations, especially the weevils Neochetina eichhorniae and N. bruchi. We therefore sampled water hyacinth and weevil populations at 54 sites distributed statewide. Half were under maintenance control, half were not treated with herbicides. General site conditions were assessed, demographic data were collected on weevil and plant populations, the reproductive condition of the weevils was determined, and plant nutrient and proximate composition of water hyacinth leaves were analyzed. Water hyacinth infestations under maintenance control were minimal when compared to unmanaged sites. Likewise, on a population basis, all weevil cohorts were much lower due to the paucity of plants. Plants at unmanaged sites, where weevil intensities were much higher, suffered high levels of stress and showed low growth potential. Lower percentages of the female weevils were reproductive at unmanaged sites when compared to managed sites, so densities of reproductives and immatures were similar at both site types. Reproductive status of the weevils improved with increased plant quality. Plant quality, in turn, declined as stresses arising from weevil feeding increased. Plant quality was positively correlated with plant growth potential and flower production. Thus, maintenance control improved plant nutritive quality thereby inducing reproductive vigor of the weevils, but ensuring plant regrowth and the need for future control. This suggests that biological and herbicidal controls should be integrated, using herbicides to maintain water hyacinth infestations below management thresholds but in a manner that conserves biological control agent populations. This approach would lead to improved plant nutritional quality that would, in turn, stimulate reproduction in biological control agent populations. KEY WORDS: Eichhornia crassipes; Neochetina eichhorniae; Neochetina bruchi; Phytophagy; Integrated control; Aquatic weeds

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