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Air potato beetles on a leaf

Science and Serendipity Defeat Invasion of the Air Potato

The plot could have come from Hollywood — an insidious alien invader threatens to overrun the land, but intrepid scientists discover a secret weapon in the far-off, exotic land of Nepal and bring the pestilence to heel. But this is not fiction; it’s true.

The air potato plant (Dioscorea bulbifera) is an exotic vine from Asia that was introduced to Florida about 115 years ago to make medicine. After escaping from the lab, it multiplied and smothered native plant communities in all of Florida’s 67 counties in vines that grew 6 inches per day.

All attempts to manage the air potato were unsuccessful, until scientists from the ARS Invasive Plant Research Laboratory in Fort Lauderdale, FL, made their historic trip to Nepal.

To learn more read this article.