BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The LSU AgCenter is bringing minds from across the state together to study invasive species causing major problems in Louisiana and find ways to get rid of them.

The LSU AgCenter has created the virtual Center of Research Excellence for the Study of Invasive Species. 

“Invasive species are already a major problem in Louisiana and throughout the U.S., and problems are expected to intensify as a result of further globalization and climate change,” said Dr. Mike Salassi, the LSU AgCenter executive associate vice president and director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station. “The creation of this research center will enhance the ability of LSU AgCenter scientists to collaborate with research scientists at other universities to find solutions to reduce the adverse impacts on the wide range of invasive species on the environment as well as on native species, not just in Louisiana, but across the southern region and the U.S. as a whole.”

Research includes the development of methods and approaches for detection, monitoring, eradication and management, Salassi said. The center’s scientists will be able to effectively pursue funding and support at the state and federal levels.

Salassi said invasive species cost Louisiana’s agriculture and the state’s economy tens of millions of dollars every year. It’s estimated there were about 1,200,000 wild hogs in Louisiana in early August. Scientists at LSU created a patent-pending recipe for a bait that wild pigs like to eat, but the number of hogs is still a problem.

Salassi said invasive pests in Louisiana also include giant salvinia, Mexican rice borer, apple snails, Chinese tallow, Roseau cane scale and guava root-knot nematode. So, how will scientists determine which invasive species need to be looked at first if there are so many?

“Ongoing research targets many of the most damaging invasive pests. Research priorities will be reevaluated as new threats such as the spotted lanternfly emerge,” Salassi said. “The spotted lanternfly, which is currently spreading across the southeastern U.S. and should arrive in Louisiana soon, has decimated crops and caused over $200 million in damage in Pennsylvania alone.”

Salassi said the activities of the center will not be limited to Louisiana. Faculty experts from Southern University, Nicholls State University, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Louisiana Tech, and the University of New Orleans will join scientists at LSU.

Research efforts are already underway, Salassi said.