Tropical soda Apple (Solanum viarum) is an aggressive, fast growing, prickly shrub, newly introduced to NSW and Queensland. Due to its ability to form dense stands as large as 4 ha, it is listed as a serious threat to livestock management, carrying capacity and native vegetation. It is a State Priority Weed in NSW, is subject to a Biosecurity Control Order (2017) under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015 and is a prohibited invasive plant under the QLD Biosecurity Act 2014. The fruit of this plant are readily consumed by livestock, feral animals and wildlife, enabling the spread and subsequent growth of thousands of seeds per plant. Biological control is a potentially useful and valuable tool for the management of tropical soda apple in Australia given the success of previous biological control programs in Florida USA.
Our research on tropical soda apple biocontrol was supported by the “Control tools and technologies for established pest animals and weeds competitive grants programme”, established by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in 2017.
We also acknowledge support from Assistant Professor Carey Minteer from the Centre for Aquatic and Invasive Plants at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, with whom we have set up an ongoing collaboration.