The COST SMARTER Dissemination Meeting “Ragweed management and the potential benefit and risk of Ophraella communa in Northern Italy – Researchers meet their Stakeholders” was held on 28th of October 2016, in Rho (Milan). About 100 people, including representatives from Local Authorities and Municipalities, Health Regional Authorities and the Italian National Television, attended the morning meeting. About 40 people participated on the guided visit to the experimental fields in Magnago during the afternoon.
The Müller-Schärer Group of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland invites students to apply for a research period to participate in field research on biological control of ragweed by the accidentally introduced ragweed leaf beetle Ophraella communa, and on the population dynamics of ragweed. This includes experiments in Switzerland, Italy and France, with different collaborators from the SMARTER Task Forces Ophraella and Population Dynamics.
Applications can be submitted until 15 January 2016.
On the 8th of May, members of the Task Force Ophraella met at the Milano University Bicocca to coordinate all the field work to assess risks and benefits of the establishment of the ragweed leaf beetle Ophraella communa for the coming months. The 15 attendees from Italy, Switzerland and Slovakia agreed on protocols for new experiments, and all practical implementations including collaborative efforts. The Task Force can now confidently start the planned surveys, and the 13 experiments at 12 different locations of this summer.
The Task Force Ophraella met on 11 and 12 April 2015 in the area where the ragweed leaf beetle Ophraella communa has established. On a joint field trip in the Milano area, they found egg batches on seedlings of Ambrosia artemisiifolia. By sweep netting they collected female and male beetles, brought to the University of Fribourg to start a new rearing in the quarantaine facilities.
Next day, the Task Force was hosted by the Museum of Natural History in Lugano, Switzerland. Members exchanged results obtained in 2014, and the invited speaker Yuya Fukano from Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology updated them about the status quo of the work on Ophraella communa in Japan. Several Task Force members initiated new collaborative experiments starting in 2015.
One of the aims of WG1 and the Task Force Ophraella is to assess the potential impact of candidate biocontrol agents of Ambrosia. We will do this by coupling demographic models of the biocontrol agents (insects) with those of the plant, developed by the Task Force Population Dynamics. Such a model would be of a high practical value to predict the interactions between both species and their spread over Europe.
To design the experiments needed to parameterise the models, several SMARTER members and modelling expert Yvonne Buckley met in March 2015 in Sheffield, UK, where they also presented the project in the symposium ‘Demography beyond the Population’, organized by the British Ecological Society (download the poster presentation here).
We specifically discussed the case of the ragweed leaf beetle Ophraella communa, and its impact on Ambrosia artemisiifolia. We designed experiments that will be carried out in Northern Italy, starting in May 2015, and agreed on a STSM of Benno Augustinus (CABI, Switzerland) to Eelke Jongejans (Nijmegen, Netherlands) in April 2015.