(02/22/19) BATON ROUGE, La. — The federal appropriations bill Congress passed last week includes an additional $1 million in funding for research on invasive species. Officials with the LSU AgCenter said these funds would allow additional research on the roseau cane scale, which may threaten Louisiana’s coastline and the Mississippi River shipping channel.
With the additional funding, AgCenter researchers will look at varieties of roseau cane resistant to the scale, land loss impact, environmental conditions and erosion from storm events.
Members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation said this funding was a priority to protect Louisiana’s coast.
“Roseau cane is vital to maintaining the integrity of our vibrant coastline, and we need to do everything we can to protect it,” said U.S. Sen. John Kennedy. “This funding will help quash the pests that are greedily gnawing away and destroying the roseau cane reeds. I’m committed to saving Louisiana’s disappearing coastline, and securing this funding is a huge step in preserving our wetlands.”
The Mississippi River Delta is a complex hydrological region with large fluctuations in water level, sediment deposition, wave action and other factors. Researchers do not know how the cane varieties will respond to different salinity levels, water depths, pathogen loads and other changes, making this research essential to final recommendations.
LSU AgCenter entomologist Rodrigo Diaz said by understanding the factors and mechanisms of stress on roseau cane, researchers hope to develop restoration plans tailored to specific regions in the delta.
Diaz and the AgCenter team of researchers have collected data that shows a variation in the health of roseau cane stands throughout the delta. The researchers believe resistance to the cane scale in some varieties might be partly responsible for these variances.
Funding for research on varieties that are believed to be resistant are necessary before a final recommendation can be made on the widespread planting of these varieties in a potential restoration project.
“LSU AgCenter’s research into roseau cane is critical to our effort to restore and preserve Louisiana’s coastline,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy. “This funding ensures their great work continues.”
Additional funding will allow researchers to develop a marsh restoration plan that incorporates planting of varieties of roseau cane or other coastal plants that are tolerant to the scale in key areas.
“The protection and restoration of our coastal wetlands is vital to the preservation of our way of life,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise. “I worked to secure this funding to address the deterioration of roseau cane along our coastal areas because we must do all we can to restore Louisiana’s coastline, which continues to lose a football field of land every hour.”
Diaz said variety trials are needed to assist in determining the best time of year for planting, which plant species or varieties establish and grow best under a variety of environmental conditions, and the optimal plant size needed to provide high establishment success relative to material costs.
“Coastal erosion presents a serious challenge for Louisiana, and I’m glad that these federal funds will be used to find new tools to stop and reverse the damage,” said U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham
Funding from this appropriation also will be used to continue and improve projects that have been identified through previously conducted research initiatives on roseau cane aimed at increasing cane health. These projects include mowing infected stands at the end of the growing season and other host plant resistance trials.
“The roseau cane die-off at the mouth of the Mississippi is not an out-of-sight, out-of-mind problem. The consequences — for our coastal communities, the state and regional economy, and the entire ecosystem — could hit home in a hurry if we don’t keep this issue at the forefront of coastal action,” said U.S. Rep. Garrett Graves. “We pushed hard for this tranche of resources needed to help us understand how to combat this threat. We will continue pushing until we successfully neutralize it.”
The Mississippi River plays a very important role in the import and export of commodities and other goods throughout the United States. The river is one of the most important commercial waterways in the world, and the Port of South Louisiana is the largest port in the United States, based on the tonnage of goods that move through the port.
“If land loss occurs as a result of roseau cane die-offs and navigation ways are closed, the economic impact would be devastating,” Diaz said.