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Crop Biotech Update

Scientists Find Evidence of Casuarina Hybrids

September 18, 2009

Researchers of the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Pest Management Research Unit led by Greg Wheeler in collaboration with ARS' researchers in Australia have been conducting studies to determine how to control the Australian Casuarina. The trees have been introduced to southern Florida as an ornamental and as a windbreak for citrus groves, but recently have become an environmental problem invading and altering natural habitats that threaten endangered species.

Previous speculations by scientists that hybridization occurs among the three species of C. glauca, C. cunninghamiana and C. equisetifolia in Florida were confirmed through genetic markers. There were hybrid combinations between C. glauca and C. equisetifolia across a wide range of southern Florida. They also found C. glauca and C. cunninghamiana hybridization in one location. These hybridications though were not found in the species in Australia. Research is now geared towards the establishment of biocontrol agents for the parental species and the hybrids.

For details, see the press release at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2009/090911.htm