Tropical Soda Apple

January 2005
Jim Selph - DeSoto County Extension, Director/Livestock Agent

The South Florida Beef Forage Program met in December after the Florida Cattlemen's Association December Quarterly and have decided to follow up on what was reported at that meeting. With the general concern that was voiced by many over TSA, the Beef Forage group of agents and specialist decided that we would work on developing rearing sites at many of the county Extension office locations throughout the South Florida Beef Forage Program area. Our goal is to begin to increase dramatically the number of the leaf eating beetles available and to facilitate the spread of this biological control agent to as many acres of pastures and range as possible. We will need help in constructing the rearing facilities both financially and in volunteer labor. Contact your local extension Livestock Agent if you are interested in assisting in this effort. A 10×27 shade house for raising the Leaf Beetles can be built for less than $500.

TSA is a plant that originated in Argentina and Central Brazil. It has now spread over a large area of the Sub-tropical world. We don't want it spreading over a large area of DeSoto County. The plant is readily identified by its immature fruit which are green with white mottling, similar to watermelon. Cattle don't consume the leaves of the plant, but will eat the fruit. After consuming the fruit, seed will pass through the digestive tract and will be deposited in the droppings. Seeds of the TSA tend to move through the cow's digestive system at different rates. Those seed that move through in 1 or 2 days are very viable. The longer they stay in the cow's digestive tract though, the less viable the germination. This is only a fact for mature cows, bulls, steers, etc. When bringing in replacement females from highly infected areas, holding them up in a small area is a wise choice to help control the area of TSA that might need to be treated. Calves do consume the fruit and we are waiting on the data that reflects the viability of seeds passing through calves digestive tracts.

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