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8-18-03--In the midst of infestations of the emerald ash borer and red ants, Texas scientists and extension agents are teaming up beetles and herbicides for the extermination of a non-native tree. The salt cedar tree is planted along stream banks to prevent erosion, however, the trees are causing damage to soil and stream beds in New Mexico and Texas. These cedars, true to their name, deposit salt into the soil, which is injurious to other plants. The biggest problem, however, is that the salt cedars use roughly 57 percent more water than the native foliage, according to dchieftain.com, which contributes to drought conditions in the parched southwest. One mature salt cedar tree uses up to 200 gallons of water a day; an acre of salt cedars will use seven acre feet of water per year, according tocibolabeacon.com. Herbicides kill about 85-90 percent the salt cedars. However, Jack DeLoache, research entomologist with the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Temple, Texas, thinks he has a supplemental solution: the Diorhabda elongata, a three-eights-of-an-inch -long beetle imported from Asia and the Mediterranean. What the herbicides don't kill, the beetle will. The beetles are being tested at several Texas sites. DeLoache says that he is negotiating with Mexico to allow the release of the beetle. The Socorro Soil and Water Conservation District and the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico, and the Red Bluff Water and Power Control District and the Texas Department of Agriculture in Texas have joined together to fund and execute the eradication of the salt cedar trees from streams and rivers. In New Mexico, 4,600 acres of salt cedars trees have been eradicated; in Texas, two-thirds of the Pecos River are expected to be free of salt cedars by the end of the year. Sources: oaca.com; dchieftain.com; cibolabeacon.com

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