What is TEAM Leafy Spurge?
This information was compiled early in the TEAM Leafy Spurge project and
describes how the program was organized.
TEAM Leafy Spurge
The Ecological Area-wide Management (TEAM) Leafy Spurge is a $4.5 million,
five-year USDA-ARS research and demonstration program focusing on the Little
Missouri drainage in Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas. Its goal is to
research, develop and demonstrate ecologically based Integrated Pest
Management strategies that landowners and land managers can use to achieve
effective, affordable and sustainable leafy spurge control.
Funded by the
USDA-ARS and managed cooperatively with the USDA-APHIS, TEAM Leafy Spurge
stresses partnerships, teamwork and a cooperative approach to solving the
leafy spurge problem. TEAM members include state and federal agencies, state
Cooperative Extension Services, land grand universities, weed managers,
county and other local entities, and private landowners and ranchers.
TEAM Leafy Spurge is managed by the USDA-ARS in cooperation with the
USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Team members include the
Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service,
Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Geological Service,
state departments of agriculture and other state agencies, Cooperative
Extension Services, land grant universities, county weed managers,
landowners and ranchers. Several other cooperators also participate in the
program by providing technical expertise and other essential resources. A
non-partisan ad hoc committee consisting of state and federal researchers,
land managers, representatives from local, state and federal entities, and
private landowners/ranchers provides management and direction.
How it works
TEAM Leafy Spurge gets funding from the USDA-ARS, which it invests in
research and demonstration projects conducted by TEAM members. Each year,
potential program partners submit leafy spurge research and demonstration
proposals to the ad hoc committee. Special consideration is given to
projects that build on existing data and/or explore innovative methods of
integrating control strategies. The committee discusses the proposals,
offers suggestions or recommendations, then decides if funding should be
allocated to proposed projects.
About 80 percent of
TEAM’s annual funding is distributed to research and demonstration efforts
being conducted at land grant universities and by local, state and federal
researchers. Program participants often supplement the funding they receive
from TEAM Leafy Spurge with additional funds from their own organizations.
TEAM Leafy Spurge is built on three
• Regional approach: As a USDA-ARS area-wide program, TEAM Leafy Spurge is
evaluating the leafy spurge problem on a regional rather than a local, or
place-by-place, basis. This area-wide approach ensures that techniques
developed to manage leafy spurge will work across a wide area and not in
just a single place.
• Integrated Pest
Management: IPM combines different management tools to provide more
effective leafy spurge control than could be achieved by using any single
tool. Biological control is the foundation for TEAM’s IPM approach:
Biocontrol agents, like the host-specific leafy spurge flea beetle, are
integrated with other management tools, such as herbicides, multi-species
grazing programs, reseeding, tillage, burning and clipping, to achieve leafy
spurge control. IPM offers the flexibility needed by landowners and land
managers to devise different management strategies for different situations.
• Teamwork: TEAM Leafy Spurge has assembled an
experienced group of researchers and land managers into a focused,
goal-oriented team. The program’s collaborative effort enables participants
to share resources and expertise and more effectively work toward a common
TEAM Leafy Spurge research and demonstration projects are designed to build
on existing data and explore promising areas of leafy spurge research. These
projects cover a wide range of disciplines, including biological control
with insects and naturally occurring plant pathogens, multi-species grazing
and other range management techniques, the judicious use of herbicides, and
the integration of various control tools.
projects are geared toward showing ranchers and land managers how to use a
certain management tool or combination of tools. Demonstration sites
established at TEAM study areas give ranchers and land managers a hands-on
opportunity to see the techniques being used and the results produced.
generally focus on gaining a better understanding of biological control
agents. These studies will hopefully yield information on how biocontrol
agents work, why they work in some situations but not others, how insects
and pathogens can be used together, and how biocontrol agents can be best
integrated with other control tools. Additional research is being conducted
overseas, where entomologists are looking for new insects and pathogens to
use against leafy spurge.
• Awareness: By distributing information and participating in numerous
public events (meetings, tours, etc.), TEAM Leafy Spurge has increased
public awareness of the problem, the economic and environmental
consequences, and possible solutions.
• Understanding: Ranchers, landowners and land
managers are beginning to understand that no one tool will solve the problem
and how available tools can best be integrated.
• Networking: One of TEAM’s most enduring
achievements is the creation of a vast network of “partners.” This network
has provided TEAM participants with a better understanding of how different
management programs (local, state and federal) work and how they can best
interact with one another.
• Biological Control: TEAM Leafy Spurge is
proving that biological control WILL work, that it is an effective,
affordable and ecologically sustainable way to manage leafy spurge. Flea
beetles have reduced leafy spurge canopy cover and stem densities by as much
as 95 percent at some sites; researchers are confident leafy spurge will
never again be a problem at these sites.
Biological control takes time, but is clearly the preferred management tool
of the new millennium. With that in mind, TEAM Leafy Spurge is working hard
to distribute biocontrol agents, improve distribution systems and establish
new release sites. More than 22 million leafy spurge flea beetles have been
distributed to ranchers, landowners and land managers from 50 counties in
seven states during the past two years, with more distributions planned for
the future. These insects are being used to establish insectaries that can
be harvested, redistributed and used to establish populations at new
• Increased awareness and understanding.
• Increased implementation of IPM and biological control.
• Introduction of new biological control agents.
• Reduced reliance on expensive and environmentally taxing chemicals, and
the subsequent development and distribution of information on alternatives
to chemical control.
• Increased ranch profitability, and the subsequent protection of local and
• The creation of relationships that will last beyond the life of TEAM Leafy
Spurge and enable “partners” to more effectively combat other invasive weed
and insect pests.
• A “library” of informational tools that can be used by ranchers,
landowners, land managers and researchers.
• A user-friendly decision support system that can be used to determine
reductions in range productivity, estimated costs and returns of various
management strategies, and expected outcomes of using various management
• Database: The development of a comprehensive leafy spurge database that
will allow researchers to plan strategies and quantify the reduction of
leafy spurge infestations.