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Field bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, is an invasive perennial herb found throughout most of the temperate regions of North America and Eurasia. It is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean area and western Asia and was first documented in the United States in the early 1700’s. From its original infestation on the east coast, it has slowly moved west across the United States and is now a serious pest in the Western states.
Field bindweed is a prostrate or climbing perennial vine. Stems can reach up to 3 meters in length and bear an abundance of white or pink funnel shaped flowers. The roots and rhizomes can extend over an area of up to 6 meters in diameter and have a taproot penetrating the soil up to 3 meters below the surface of the soil. The weed reproduces by long-lived seeds or by sprouts that arise from the lateral roots. Seeds may remain viable for up to 50 years in the soil.
Field bindweed is mainly a pest of cultivated land but is also found along roadsides, fallow fields and other non-cultivated areas. Its extensive root system makes it highly competitive with other plants for nutrients and water and its long stems twine about the stems of cultivated plants, interfering with their growth and harvest. Herbicide treatment can be quite costly with minimal effect.
Biological controls for Field bindweed include a microscopic mite, Aceria malherbae, and a foliage feeding moth, Tyta luctuosa. Both species have been reared or collected by insectary staff since 1997 with great success. The mites infest the newest growth of the plant by forming a leaf gall. The gall is basically a small nursery housing the developing culture of mites. This initially reduces flowering and stunts the growth of the stems. Mites overwinter on the root buds and emerge again with spring growth. The activity of the mites can kill the bindweed.
The Tyta moth utilizes the larval stage of the life cycle to defoliate or strip the leaves off of the stem. This also reduces flowering and stresses the root system. This does not usually kill the plant but it does stress the plant and leaves it susceptible to fungus and disease. Pupation occurs in the soil and adult emergence follows. Two to three generations are produced in one year.
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