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FFA students meet for National Farm Safety instruction at Levy Agriculture Center.

Science Behind Weed Control

Science behind weed control entails becoming familiar with identification and multiple control options during National Farm Safety Day.

Levy County Middle/High FFA become familiar with potato identification and control options during National Farm Safety Day.

Extension connects the general public with University of Florida scientist and specialist by providing research based education. The science behind weed control, specifically the air potato vine, engages youth and residents to hone identification skills. After proper identification, options for control are discussed. The goal is to develop citizen scientists throughout the Nature Coast. Submitted data is collected to aid in control efforts. .

Shotgun holes are visible. Beetles tend to be elusive, hiding under leaves or in leaf litter. Science behind weed control means proper identification of the plant/pest before taking action.

Underground tubers ensures survival from year to year.

Why is air potato a weed of concern?

  • can grows 8 inches per day. Vines exceed 65 feet in single growing season. Plant is hardy in wide variety of growing and soil conditions. They tolerate flooded and low fertility soils.
  • vines crowd out native species and forms a monoculture. Diversity of native species is reduced due to smothering, space and nutrient competition. Vines twine and climb over desirable native plants. Animals relying on native plants for seed, berry or cover are impacted.
  • costly and difficult to control. Vines die back in winter but resprout from tuber in warm season.
  • no major pests or diseases in Florida to impact growth. Farm animals do not graze on it. Originally from Asia, China and Nepal, it was introduced to Florida in 1905.
ulbil may be dark with rough texture or lighter tan colored with smooth texture.

Air potato bulbil are dark with rough texture or lighter tan colored with smooth texture.

Can we eat the air potato?

That’s a great question! I appreciate the resourcefulness behind it. UF specialists do not recommend consumption.  Allergic reactions, illness and contraindication with medication are concerns. Alleged use may be based on unconfirmed information. We strongly caution against consumption.

Likewise, animals do not graze on the vine or bulbil. There are no known Florida insects or pathogen that feed on it either. If thorns, hairs and/or tendrils are present, it is NOT the exotic, invasive air potato vine. 

The science behind weed control uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to control air potato vine, combining biological, chemical and mechanical strategies for improved success.

Devouring leaf tissue and growing points keep vines lower in the canopy.

Sign of beetle feeding.

  1. Biological –  release beetle (Lilioceris chini) Spring-Fall. Beetle feeding reduces plant growth. Bulbil quantity and size is reduced.
    > low labor required
    > larvae and adult beetle feed primarily on leaf
    > shotgun holes or lace-like (skeletonized) leaves indicate beetle presence
    > beetle may feed on bulbil. Bulbil generally callous over and feeding damage will not effect its ability to sprout.

What else does the beetle eat?

That’s a good question. In 2004, USDA Quarantine lab, Davie Florida isolated beetles originating in Nepal, China and Africa. Host verification tests were conducted on 41 plant species. Results indicated this specific beetle and larvae feed only the air potato leaf, vine and bulbil. In 2011, beetles were released at select Florida sites.

2.  Chemical
> Follow the Label.
> apply systemic herbicide August – October
> may require repeat sprays, timing is critical
> desirable/non-target plants may be killed
> The Label is the Law.

3. Mechanical
> mow in early spring, repeat mowing for multiple years to slow growth
> Spring- Summer – dig up, double bag and dispose of underground tuber
> cut/pull vines
> collect bulbil in winter. Dispose by double bagging and discarding. Reduces subsequent season population. Reduces potential for spread.

Where can I get beetles?

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service (FDACS-Division of Plant Industry mass rearing and release  is partly funded by  United States Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS). Citizen scientist report on beetle effect on growth data. Request beetles, April – October, with online form . Beetle shipped first call/first served, beginning April to coincide with vine germination. Join the air potato patrol. Become a citizen scientist today.

How can I be sure if I have potato vine?

Bring stem with several leaf attached to Levy County Extension, 625 North Hathaway Avenue, Bronson. Email image to Barbara L. Edmonds

Take the OUCH! Out of Sandspur

Did You Know??
98%  –   Residents using Extension services
and were satisfied with service provided.
Levy County, 2016 survey)

2 Comments on “Science Behind Weed Control

  1. You should have pictures of the weed, such as the air potato, you are talking about

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