New grants will help Minnesota fight invasive pests and plants

Four research projects will receive $1.24 million in funding via the Minnesota Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center (MITPPC) at the University of Minnesota, a critical step in finding new techniques and technologies to more effectively manage invasive species in Minnesota’s forests, prairies and agriculture.

“These projects represent integrative, coordinated, cross-departmental approaches to invasive species research,” said Rob Venette, director of MITPPC. “These projects also support several post-doctoral researchers and graduate students, providing Minnesota with the next generation of scientists to address the challenges posed by terrestrial invasive species.”

MITPPC was created by the state legislature last year with funding from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative‐Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

 The four projects address priority research needs jointly identified by the Board of Water and Soil Resources, the Minnesota departments of agriculture, transportation, and natural resources, the state agencies with primary responsibility for management of terrestrial invasive species on public lands.  These research projects will strengthen partnerships between research and management with the involvement of state agencies and other stakeholders, Venette said.

Eight proposals were received, with requests totaling $3.7 million. The four selected projects went through a rigorous peer-review process.

The funded projects are:

Novel Diagnostic Tools for Rapid and Early Detection of Oak Wilt, $150,000 to develop new technologies for rapid and early detection of the non-native, invasive fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum, which causes the mostly fatal disease in oak trees.  Principal investigator is Abdennour Abbas, assistant professor in the bioproducts and biosystems engineering department.

Early Detection, Forecasting and Management of the brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys, $597,795 to create a multi-stakeholder, comprehensive approach for early detection and forecasting, via phenology and climate change models, to improve the timing of management strategies for the brown marmorated stinkbug. Principal investigator is William Hutchison, professor of entomology

Climate Change and Range Expansion of Invasive Plants, $170,000 to develop and validate predictive distribution models of high-priority invasive species under current and future climates. Research will focus on nine weeds on the Minnesota’s noxious weed list: Palmer amaranth, narrowleaf bittercress, oriental bittersweet, brown knapweed, black swallow-wort, Grecian foxglove, common teasel, Japanese hops, and Dalmation toadflax.  This work will improve detection and establish priorities for eradication and management. Principal investigator is David Moeller, professor of plant biology.

Cover it Up! Using Plants to Control Buckthorn, $327,000 to develop management tools to limit buckthorn re-colonization following its removal, by identifying cost-effective methods of establishing dense cover of preferred plant species that will suppress buckthorn regeneration. Principal investigator is Peter Reich, Regents professor and F.B. Hubachek, Sr. chair in forest ecology and tree physiology 

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