Master Gardener College 2019 is set to feature Dr. John Goolsby of the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) as a keynote speaker. Dr. Goolsby is an internationally known research entomologist working on biological control of invasive species.
Dr. Goolsby’s keynote address will highlight a major success story for biological control: the reduction of populations of giant reed, or Arundo donax, along the Rio Grande River by introduction of multiple insect species.
“Giant reed is an invasive weed introduced from Spain and widely distributed in Northern Mexico and along the Rio Grande River. It didn’t have any herbivore insects that kept it under control in this environment,” says Dr. Goolsby. “There were multiple reasons to reduce the amount of this invasive giant reed. The Spanish name, el ladrón de Agua, actually means ‘the water thief,” so reducing it had the benefits of not only reducing water use in the desert southwest, but also improving visibility for border patrol, and helping wildlife.”
Dr. Goolsby’s talk will include details on the years-long research process of identifying a suitable predator insect for giant reed from its native Spain and evaluating any potential risks of introduction or alternative control measures. He will also cover the rigorous regulatory process required before any new species can be introduced for biological control.
“This subject is really about how science works to solve problems, how federal agencies work with each other, and how to work with another country,” says Frank Reilly, a Central Rappahannock Master Gardener and also involved in the project.
“I hope to give Master Gardeners an idea of the damage that we incur from invasive species and the general way biological control works,” says Dr. Goolsby, noting the various invasive species we’re currently battling in Virginia. “When you see how we were able to control giant reed along the Rio Grande, you start to think, ‘How can we control invasive weeds in Virginia?’”
Noting the introduction of invasive species which were originally considered ornamental Dr. Goolsby emphasizes the ecological consequences gardening can have–and the opportunity Master Gardeners have to help.
“Dr. Goolsby is a world-renowned scientist who is working on an international basis to control problems that apply to Extension Master Gardeners and the public,” says Reilly.
Master Gardeners interested in controlling invasive species, restoring native plants, or tackling the many vitally-important scientific challenges we face won’t want to miss Dr. Goolsby’s keynote address.
2019 Extension Master Gardener College will be held from September 19-22 in Norfolk, Virginia. For more information on Master Gardener College, please visit our website at https://www.mastergardener.ext.vt.edu/college. Registration for Master Gardener College will open in early May; please monitor your email, the biweekly update, and/or our website for more updates.