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2007 Annual Report

UC Statewide IPM Program

Changes ahead for research grants programs

Due to funding reductions, the UC Exotic/Invasive Pests and Diseases Research Program (EPDRP) is ending, and the UC Pierce’s Disease Research Grants Program was able to fund only four new projects in 2007-08.

Both programs have been funded through a Special Research Grant from USDA. These grants were part of the earmarks that Congress removed from the 2006-07 budget and included the funds that would have been used to fund new grants over the next three years.

UC ANR has requested new funding for the Pierce’s disease grants program, but the exotic pest program is expected to end when the currently funded projects are completed. A symposium to highlight the work supported by the exotic pest program from 2001 to 2008 is planned for fall 2008.

Summaries of project reports from the exotic pest program are online at the UC IPM Web site. Find summaries of Pierce’s disease projects on the CDFA Web site.

Native annual desert pincushion, Chaenactis stevioides, surrounded by Sahara mustard seedlings.
Native annual desert pincushion, Chaenactis stevioides, surrounded by Sahara mustard seedlings. Photo by Robin Marushia.

UC scientists find answers about Sahara mustard's spread with funds from EPDRP

Sahara mustard's sweep into Death Valley National Park and other southwestern deserts has caught the attention of UC scientists and California land managers.

Sahara mustard is a member of the mustard family and native to North Africa, the Middle East, and southern Europe. It has spread to the southwestern United States, including southern Nevada, and has invaded native Mojave Desert shrublands.

The mustard's seed is spread when dry plants break off and tumble in the wind.  Animals and humans also spread it when it becomes wet and sticky. The drought-tolerant mustard thrives in sandy soils of beaches, dunes, and roadsides. It threatens native desert vegetation by using soil moisture and mineral nutrients needed by native plants.

Plant physiologist Jodie Holt and PhD student Robin Marushia from UC Riverside designed a field experiment to track Sahara mustard and compare its growth, survival, reproduction, and dominance against the same measurements in the native plant community.

"We found that not only does Sahara mustard grow and reproduce more quickly than native plants, but it also tends to survive and reproduce at a higher rate," says Marushia. "These results are important for land management because it suggests that there could be a short window of time between native plant and Sahara mustard growth when we could selectively control Sahara mustard. Our results indicate that it invades areas that are rich with native annual wildflowers, and land managers can target these areas first with prevention and control efforts."

"Sahara mustard appears to exhibit an escape strategy that allows it to thrive in the Mojave Desert environment," says Holt. "In experiments, Sahara mustard grows rapidly under a wide range of environmental conditions. Early, rapid, plentiful growth may allow it to take over resources and gain an early competitive edge over native annuals that have more precise germination requirements."

Results are being used to test control strategies for Sahara mustard and identify areas most susceptible to invasion and on which to focus control.


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