Biocontrol of Air Potato in Louisiana
Air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) is an invasive weed that is spreading in Louisiana. The air potato leaf beetle, Lilioceris cheni (above), is a natural enemy of air potato.
Larvae and adults of the air potato leaf beetle feed voraciously on leaves of the air potato plant. Their feeding causes stunted growth and early vine senescence. Air potato leaf beetles are host specific, meaning they will not feed on other plant species in the absence of air potato.
The beetles we release in Louisiana are originally from Nepal, and are mass-reared in facilities in Florida. In 2016, LSU AgCenter researchers received permission from the United States Department of Agriculture to release air potato leaf beetles as biocontrol agents of air potato in Louisiana. Adult beetles are shipped from Florida to Louisiana overnight on air potato leaves. They are released directly onto new infestations and begin feeding immediately. Currently, there is no mass rearing program of beetles in Louisiana.
The LSU AgCenter monitors the establishment and impact of the beetles at release sites. Data collected include air potato coverage, beetle density, and feeding activity.
Since 2016, 13 air potato leaf beetle releases have been made in Louisiana. These releases have been focused on the southern part of the state, where air potato grows most vigorously.
One year after their release in Louisiana, air potato beetles are established and reproducing, and vines had large feeding damage. Long-term monitoring will determine the contribution of beetles to management of air potato infestations in Louisiana.
Do you have or know of an air potato infestation in Louisiana? Have you seen the beetle in Louisiana? Submit our survey form to report a new infestation.
For questions or comments on air potato biological control, contact RDiaz@agcenter.lsu.edu.
For more information, see the LSU AgCenter Bug Biz.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture