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POSTERS: Biological control

Verticillium nonalfalfae as a Potential Biological Control Agent for the Invasive Toona sinensis Tree in Pennsylvania
Melissa Mercado - The Pennsylvania State University. Matthew Kasson- West Virginia University, Division of Plant and Soil Sciences, Donald Davis- The Pennsylvania State University

The tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is a highly invasive tree species in urban, agricultural, and forest settings in the United States and Europe. For the past decade, the native soil-borne fungus Verticillium nonalfalfae (strain VnAa140) has been utilized in the eastern U.S. as a biological control agent against Ailanthus with great success. In 2014, the invasive spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), which feeds preferentially on Ailanthus, was found on this host in Pennsylvania. Following this discovery, there has been a renewed interest in utilizing V. nonalfalfae as a biocontrol against Ailanthus to help combat infestation of spotted lanternfly. Another invasive tree species also present in the U.S., the toon tree (Toona sinensis), is a known reproductive host for spotted lanternfly. However, there is no report of V. nonalfalfae causing Verticillium wilt on toon, and with the threat of this invasive insect increasing, V. nonalfalfae should be tested on toon trees. In July of 2018, a prelimnary experiment was conducted on 100 toon trees were inoculated with V. nonalfalfae while also using Ailanthus trees as a positive control. At seven weeks post-inoculation toon trees exhibited severe symptoms of wilting, vascular discoloration, stunting, and low levels of mortality. Continued research using V. nonalfalfae as a biocontrol for both Ailanthus and toon trees may represent a useful tool in mitigating the spread of the highly invasive spotted lanternfly.