Texas A&M AgriLife salt cedar control team earns Vice Chancellor Award

COLLEGE STATION – The Salt Cedar Biological Control Team has been honored with the Texas A&M AgriLife Vice Chancellor’s Award in Excellence.

The award was presented Jan. 9 during the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Centennial Conference in College Station. The Vice Chancellor’s Awards in Excellence were established in 1980 to recognize the commitment and outstanding contributions of Texas A&M AgriLife faculty and staff throughout Texas and provide an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of those honored.

Team members recognized were Dr. Jerry Michels, Texas A&M AgriLife Research entomologist, and his research assistant, Erin Jones, both in Amarillo; Dr. Allen Knutson, AgriLife Research entomologist in Dallas; and Dr. Mark Muegge, AgriLife Extension entomologist at Fort Stockton.

The high water use rate and extensive stands of salt cedar, an estimated 450,000 acres in Texas, are of critical concern to agricultural operations and municipalities in West Texas. This team developed, implemented and evaluated a sustainable biological control strategy for salt cedar that will benefit Texas for years to come, the nomination stated.

The team established populations of the introduced salt cedar leaf beetle in all of the major watersheds of West Texas and provided technical assistance and education to landowners and managers on using biological control to the invasive species. Following a 10-year effort, the leaf beetles are now well established in all of those watersheds, according to the nomination.

The beetles defoliate salt cedar trees during the summer. With repeated defoliation, trees deplete their energy stores and slowly starve to death. As a result, branches die back, the canopy shrinks, and after several years of repeated defoliation, many trees will begin to die.

“The achievements of the Salt Cedar Biological Control Team illustrates the value of Extension and research programs working together, with AgriLife Research providing applied and basic research results to support the key mission and AgriLife Extension faculty implementing programs by networking with and educating stakeholders about the risks and ultimate benefits of biological control,” said Dr. David Ragsdale, head of Texas A&M University’s department of entomology in the nomination.

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