Federal State Budgetary Institution of Science
"Federal Research Centre The Southern Scientific Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences"
FTP Cadres: Grant 2012-1.1-12-000-1001-033

FTP Cadres: Grant 2012-1.1-12-000-1001-033

Project of the Federal target programme
"Research and Pedagogical Cadres for Innovative Russia" for 2009-2013.
«New approach to consistent biological control of common ragweed and Colorado potato beetle: field studies, mathematical modelling, and practical recommendations».
Grant 2012-1.1-12-000-1001-033. (1.07.2012 - 15.11.2013)

About project:

News and Events

15 February 2013
The federal service for intellectual property (Rospatent) has issued certificates of state registration of two computer programs (authors: Dr.Sc. Yu.V.Tyutyunov, L.I.Titova):

(1). Simulation model of system "weed - competitor - phytophage" AC (Ambrosia Control) (№2013611508, 22 Jan 2013);

(2). Simulation model of spatially distributed trophic system "Perillus (Perillus bioculatus)" (№2013611507, 22 Jan 2013).

< all news and events >

Media: Photo / Video / Press

About project

Common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) and the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata Say) are two highly harmful alien species originating from North America. Their rapid dispersal over Eurasian continent illustrates typical initial stage of successful establishment of invasive species in a new ecosystem free from specific enemies, illnesses and competitors.

Development of biological methods of pest and weed control has great practical importance. That is why in the Southern Scientific Center of RAS much attention is given to studies related to this problem (Matishov et al., 2011).

In order to run the project a research consortium was created on the base of the Research and Educational Centre (REC) of SSC RAS “Ecosystem approaches to rational use of natural resources in arid zones”, consolidating efforts of specialists working at SSC RAS, Institute of Arid Zones (IAZ) SSC RAS, Zoological Institute (ZIN) RAS, All-Russian Research Institute of Biological Protection of Plants of Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences (ARRIBPP RAAS), Vorovich Research Institute of Mechanics and Applied Mathematics (RIMAM) of Southern Federal Unversity (SFedU), professors, PhD-, Bachelor-, and Master-students of basic chairs of SFedU, and of Affiliate of the Kuban State University in Slavyansk-on-Kuban.

Project coordinator: Acad. RAS G.G. Matishov

Researcher in charge: Dr.Sc. Yu.V. Tyutyunov

Project objectives:

To carry out a full cycle of fundamental studies on biological methods of control of common ragweed and the Colorado potato beetles, that consists of:
  1. performing field experiments; collecting and analyzing field and laboratory data samples;
  2. construction of mathematical and simulation models for “ragweed – phytophagous insect – entomophagous predator” population systems, and its identification on collected data;
  3. testing theoretical hypotheses about influence of spatial factors of biocontrol on efficacy of pest suppression.

Project tasks

Serving both research and educational purposes, the list of project’s tasks includes various activities:

The main educational purpose of the project consists in implementation of progressive model of young scientists’ training program based on close cooperation of the basic chairs of the Southern Federal University and the Slavyansk-on-Kuban Affiliate of the Kuban State University with research units of the Southern Scientific Center of RAS and All-Russian Research institute of biological protection of plants. This is achieved by involving students in real scientific studies with further position offering at SSC RAS to the most talented young scientists.

Methods of pest control

There are four major weed control strategies for common ragweed (Tabl. 1). Mechanical suppression, weeding is the most effective but at the same time, the most labor-consuming method. Thus in large fields, chemical method of weed control is more preferable, although the use of herbicides is expensive and harmful. Besides, the use of herbicides in urban settlements is prohibited by sanitary laws.

Table. 1. Efficacy of alternative strategies of weed control for various ecosystems.
Ecosystem type Bio-control Replacement Herbicide Weeding
Agricultural fields  
Road sides    
Neglected lands      
Natural landscape  
Urban settlements  

Biological methods of weed control are considered to be perspective, effective and safe (Harris, Piper 1970; Kovalev 1971; Kovalev, Belokobylsky 1989; Kartamyshev et al. 2006).

Experiments performed during 2005-2007 in fields of the Azov Region of the Rostov oblast (Matishov et al., 2011) provide evidence of potential efficacy of the replacement strategy consisting in preventive sowing of Indian mustard (Brassica juncta (L.) Czern.) followed by treatment of the ground with a cultivator. It was detected that including of Indian mustard into crop rotation with optimal norm of sowing around 6 kg/ha, allows not only suppressing common ragweed, reducing its wet biomass by one order of magnitude, but also increasing crop capacity of winter wheat. The buried ragweed biomass turned out to be a great fertilizer.

Along with growing of vegetative cultures suppressing Ambrosia artemisiifolia, many authors consider classical biological control, i.e. introduction of natural enemies of common ragweed as effective means of suppressing the weed (Harris, Piper 1970; Kovalev, 1971;; Kovalev, Belokobylsky, 1989).

Experience of ZIN RAS

A self-regulative ecosystem with entirely acclimatized phytophagous species consuming the weed, and keeping its density below economically acceptable threshold without pronounced outbreaks is an aim of classical biocontrol program. Having in mind this ultimate aim, we should learn the unique and extremely valuable experience of the long-term Complex expedition of the Zoological institute of the Academy of sciences of USSR, that was working from the end of 70’s almost till the moment of dissolution of the Soviet Union (Kovalev, Belokobylsky, 1989). Historically USSR was the first European country in which phytophages were applied as biocontrol agents against weeds. The leading scientific researcher of ZIN RAS, Dr.Sc. O.V.Kovalev, who has priority of invention of biological method against common ragweed in Eurasia, participates in our project. O.V. Kovalev (1971, 1989) has selected potentially effective phytopagous species and phytopathogens among 527 insect and mite species from 69 families and 9 classes associated with the subtribe Ambrosiinae in North America, including narrow oligophagous, and monophagous species from the New World: seed-feeding flies, ragweed leaf beetles, noctuid moth Tarachidia candefacta Huebn., gall-midges and weevil species. In particular, program of the introduction and acclimatization of the ragweed leaf beetle Zygogramma suturalis (Fabricius) was carried out on the territories of 16 regions of former USSR from Ukraine to Far East, while the most intensive works have been done on the South of Russia (the Stavropol Territory, the Rostov Oblast, the Krasnodar Territory, etc.).

The author of biomethod for management of common ragweed, Leading scientific researcher of ZIN RAS, Dr.Sc., O.V.Kovalev <kovalev@OK11495.spb.edu>
The efforts of ZIN RAS to introduce ragweed leaf beetle were quite efficient and led to useful experience. The phytophage got established in and around the release site and demonstrated considerable potential in suppressing common ragweed in agrocenoses within several subsequent years (Kovalev, Belokobylsky, 1989; Kovalev, Vechernin, 1986, 1989). While observing the dispersal of the beetle in the ragweed nidi and in the weedy agricultural fields of the Stavropol Territory, a new earlier unknown phenomenon of formation of “solitary population wave” (SPW) of Zygogramma suturalis was discovered (Kovalev, Vechernin, 1986, 1989; Kovalev, 2004). The SPW can be characterized by an enormous concentration of adult insects (up to 5000 beetles or more per square meter) within a narrow frontal zone. The wave front moves with constant velocity that depends on stabilized insect density (up to 3 meter per day) (Kovalev, Vechernin, 1989). With wave front being 1,5 km in length, about ten million beetles were concentrated within the wave in the 80-hectare sainfoin field, while the number of beetles amounted to 5300 individuals per one meter of the front. All ragweed plants in the rear of the advancing wave of Zygogramma population were entirely defoliated. The stock of ragweed seeds in the soil was dramatically reduced as well. Thus, for example analysis of the soil dockage in the potato field in the environs of Pelagiada village, showed (Kovalev, 1989),that stock of ragweed seeds reduced from 24000 seeds per square meter in 1980 to 35 seeds per square meter in 1985. Kovalev and Vechernin (1989) have surmised the SPW of phytophagous insect is a key factor determining the efficacy of weed biocontrol application. Notice that at its homeland, North American species Zygogramma suturalis never forms dense aggregations (Kovalev, 1989).
Ragweed leaf beetle Zygogramma suturalis F.

Unfortunately after dissolution of the Soviet Union the long-term budgeting of extensive large-scale studies, related with acclimatization of ragweed leaf beetle, noctuid moth Tarachidia candefacta Huebn., and other species from the selected group of phytophages and pathogens of common ragweed have been terminated. Episodic observations of beetle dispersal could not compensate for absence of active experiments in forming and launching the waves of phytophagous population for the weed suppression purposes. Today, after more than 20 years, Zygogramma s. has widely spread over the Eurasian continent, but its average density does not exceed 2-3 individuals per square meter, although there are observations of more dense aggregations with large number of beetles.

Film "Biological control of common ragweed" (с) LSU, 1987. Scenario by Dr.Sc. O.V.Kovalev

Predacious stink bug Perillus

Before specialists of ARRIBPP RAAS discovered the outbreak of population density of the predacious stink bag (Perillus bioculatus F.) in the Northern Caucasus (Ismailov, Agas’ieva, 2010; Esipenko, 2012), a consistent explanation of the phenomenon of the decrease of the ragweed leaf beetle abundance was never given. Unexpected find in May, 2008 of a big amount of stink bags actively feeding on eggs, grabs and imago of the ragweed leaf beetle (Ismailov, Agas’ieva, 2010), allows us to suppose that the drop of Zygogramma suturalis abundance was caused by a classical top-down cascading effect after an invading predator establishes itself in the top level of food chain. That is, as a result of Perillus bioculatus invasion into a "weed – phytophage" system, a three-level food chain "weed – phytophage – entomophage" appears, in which in accordance with trophic cascade theory (Arditi, Ginzburg 2012), the phytophage abundance decreases while the weed biomass increases. We believe acclimatization of the stink bug became a result of the earlier acclimatization of the specific phytophage of common ragweed – leaf beetle Zygogramma suturalis F. (Kovalev, Belokobylsky, 1989), however gradual growth of the stink bug population have been remaining unnoticed during relatively long period of time.

Specialists in the biological methods of plant protection consider Perillus bioculatus to be the most promising biocontrol agent against the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata Say) in Europe and its acclimatization could have a significant economic effect for European growers of vegetables (Sweetman, 1958; Ismailov, Agas’ieva, 2010). In 1960-70, introduction of the North American stink bug was a subject of studies in 10 European countries including several republics of ex-USSR, in particular in the South of Russia (Sweetman, 1958), however despite of long and intensive attempts, none of the European countries has succeeded yet with Perillus b. acclimatization. Only recently reports were published about finding of Perillus bioculatus in the European territory of Turkey in summer of 2003 (Kivan, 2004; Rabitsch, 2008, 2010), and in 2012 in Bulgaria (Simov et al. 2012). Besides this, Rabitsch (2008)refers to unpublished data on observation of the stink bug in Greece. In all cases the entomophage fed on the Colorado potato beetle, and authors are very cautiously evaluating success of introduction because only a small number of stink bugs were found. It is typical that authors cannot indicate clearly the source of invasion, relating it either to previous attempts of acclimatization of stink bug in the Balkan Peninsula and recent mild winters (Simov et al. 2012), or with unintentional delivery of stink bugs from America by NATO aviation(Kivan, 2004).

It is a pity that much more impressive result of stable acclimatisation of this useful stink bug in the Northern Caucasus (Ismailov, Agas’ieva, 2010; Esipenko, 2012) is still unknown to western specialists and not mentioned in their publications yet.

Stink bug feeding on Colorado potato beetle

Acclimatization of P. bioculatus in Europe is problematic because in spring the wintered Colorado potato beetles appear in the fields somewhat later than females of the stink bugs (Ismailov, Agas’ieva, 2010). However, just in this period, the ragweed leaf beetles belonging to the closest to Leptinotarsa genus Zygogramma, come out the ground. Later Perillus bioculatus diversifies its ration by caterpillars of the noctuid moth Tarachidia candefacta – another habitual for the stink bug North American species(Ismailov, Agas’ieva, 2010; Esipenko, 2012). The fact that in Russia stink bug is found only in a fairly narrow belt in the Northern Caucasus can probably be explained by stink bug’s survival and establishment in the areas of high density of the ragweed leaf beetle in SPW in 80’s (Kovalev, Vechernin, 1986; Kovalev, 2004).

Predacious stink bug Perrilus bioculatus feeding on the ragweed leaf beetle (Adygea)

Thus, despite of the termination more than twenty years ago of the extensive works of ZIN RAS on Zygogramma s. acclimatization, one can evaluate these works as successful regarding both short- and long-term perspectives. Indeed, acclimatization and wide spread of the ragweed leaf beetle have conditioned on the subsequent acclimatization of Perillus bioculatus – an extremely important entomophage for biological control of the Colorado potato beetle.

We shall notice that in the history of biomethod, approaches to consistent application of biological control agents against common ragweed and the Colorado potato beetle was never considered. Such an opportunity has presented itself only today when acclimatization of the ragweed leaf beetle in the Northern Caucasus stipulated acclimatization and population growth of the stink bug being efficient predator of the Colorado potato beetle (Ismailov, Agas’ieva, 2010).

In its turn acclimatization of economically valuable for vegetable-growing P. bioculatus raises importance of restoring and maintenance of Z. suturalis. Actually the aim of the project is elaboration of biocontrol methodologies for the modern conditions of agrocenoses in the Northern Caucasus, that were changed during 20 years passing since the first launches of SPW of Zygogramma suturalis. The originality of the present situation in the South of Russia is determined by formation of a phylogenetic complex of American species, including common ragweed Ambrosia artemisiifolia L., and three insect species (the ragweed leaf beetle Zygogramma suturalis, the noctuid moth Tarachidia candefacta, and the stink bug Perillus bioculatus), supplemented with the Colorado potato beetle feeding on American nightshades.

First results

The peculiarity of the project is synthesis of experiment (natural modelling) and theory (mathematical modelling).

Fieldworks were started from organising an expedition aimed to collect the ragweed leaf beetles, evaluate level of weed infestation in agricultural fields, build and equip an insectary for wintering of Zygogramma suturalus beetles.

Equipping an insectary in the Scientific-Expedition Base of SSC RAS “Kagalnik”

The main task at this stage is to collect and systematize objective and reliable indicators of the long-term efficiency of the programme of acclimatization of the ragweed leaf beetle, that was conducted by specialists of the Complex expedition of Zoological institute of the Academy of sciences of USSR from the end of 70’s till the beginning of 90’s. Concurrently, Kuban specialists from ARRIBPP RAAS that participate in the project, study biological methods for suppression of the Colorado potato beetle being a congener of Zygogramma suturalis.

Data of field and laboratory studies will form an information base for solving theoretical problems. For that purpose we construct a complex of mathematical models of spatio-temporal dynamics of ecosystems being studied. Building the models we use the earlier approved methods for description of active directed movements of consumers (Tyutyunov et al. 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010; Tyutyunov et al. 2007) and modeling evolution of the genetic structure of spatially distributed population (Tyutyunov et al. 2007, 2008).

Results obtained with help of mathematical models will be generalized and interpreted in terms of dynamic properties of large-scale managed agro-ecosystem.

Zygogramma suturalis F.


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