FFAR Grant Addresses Cattle Fever Tick Re-Invasion in Texas

A male southern cattle fever tick. Photo taken by the USDA-ARS Cattle Fever Tick Research Laboratory.

A male southern cattle fever tick. Photo taken by the USDA-ARS Cattle Fever Tick Research Laboratory.

WASHINGTON (April 29, 2020) – In addition to market volatility threats from the current pandemic, Texas cattle ranchers have been battling another threat: the southern cattle fever tick (Rhipicephalus microplus). This tick can carry pathogens that cause deadly cattle fever, bovine babesiosis, for which there is no vaccine or treatment. When the tick is found on cattle, ranches or even adjacent areas, all cattle must be quarantined – which causes significant economic hardship. The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, together with the Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation, awarded a $50,000 Rapid Outcomes for Agriculture Research (ROAR) grant to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) to research and develop biological control technologies to prevent and contain this parasite.

Cattle fever ticks were eradicated in the US in 1943, with the exception of a permanent quarantine area along the border between South Texas and Mexico. White-tailed deer and nilgai facilitated the reintroduction of the tick outside the quarantine areas and into other areas of Texas. Cattle fever ticks are a threat if they carry the cattle fever pathogens, which can kill 70 to 90 percent of infected cattle. While no ticks in the US have tested positive for the pathogens, they are present in Mexico.

“An outbreak of cattle fever could decimate the Texas cattle industry,” said FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey. “The best way to protect cattle and Texas ranchers is to halt the tick invasion in the US. FFAR is funding research to identify a natural tick predator that can be introduced in Texas to protect animal health and ranchers’ livelihoods.”

Spraying pesticides to control the ticks in vast, rugged areas or on wildlife is not feasible. Instead, USDA-ARS researchers are studying parasitoids, predatory insects that prey on the ticks, to identify a natural biological control that could be introduced in Texas. As the southern cattle fever tick is native to parts of Asia, the researchers are identifying parasitoids from Vietnam and other parts of the native range to help control the tick’s spread.

USDA-ARS’s work in Vietnam will test the cattle fever tick’s susceptibility to a variety of parasitic Asian tick predators and determine if any can be imported to combat the spread of the tick in Texas. Researchers have the expertise to identify a biological control agent that will only prey on cattle fever ticks and not interfere with other species.

The Lee and Ramona Bass Foundation contributed $25,000 to match FFAR’s investment of $25,000 in this important research.

###

Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization originally established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today's food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum, Ph.D., and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation.

Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

Overcoming Water Scarcity

Overcoming Water Scarcity

Continue

Agriculture uses 70 percent of the world’s accessible freshwater. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Overcoming Water Scarcity Challenge Area addressed water use efficiency in agriculture by developing water conservation and reuse technologies, improving crop and livestock breeds, creating improved agronomic practices, increasing the social and economic tractability of conservation practices and enhancing the efficacy of Extension services.

FFAR’s Sustainable Water Management Challenge Area builds on earlier work to increase water availability and water efficiency for agricultural use, reduces agricultural water pollution and develops water reuse technologies.

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

Continue

FFAR’s 2016-2018 Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Challenge Area increased soil health by building knowledge, fueling innovation, and enabling adoption of existing or new innovative practices that improve soil health.

The Soil Health Challenge Area advances existing research and identifies linkages between farm productivity and soil health, while also addressing barriers to the adoption of soil health practices.

Protein Challenge

Protein Challenge

Continue

FFAR’s 2016-2018 Protein Challenge Area sought to improve the environmental, economic and social sustainability of diverse proteins.

The Advance Animal Systems challenge area supports sustainable animal production through environmentally sound productions practices and advancement in animal health and welfare. Additionally, the Next Generation Crops Challenge Area develops non-traditional crops, including plant-based proteins, and creates new economic opportunities for conventional crops to increase future crop diversity and farm profitability.

Food Waste and Loss

Food Waste and Loss

Continue

About 40 percent of food in the US, or $161 billion each year, is lost or wasted. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Food and Waste Loss Challenge Area addressed the social, economic and environmental impacts from food waste and loss through research that developed of novel uses for agricultural waste, improved storage and distribution, supported tracking and monitoring, minimized spoilage through pre- and post-harvest innovations and changed behaviors to reduce food waste

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area addresses food waste and loss and supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.

Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability

Continue

Supporting innovation is necessary for sustainable results. Over the last 50 years, farmers have tripled global food production thanks to agricultural innovations. Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability was a 2016-2018 Challenge Area that focused on understanding the barriers and processes that prevented the adoption of technology and research results into sustainable practices.

Urban Food Systems

Urban Food Systems

Continue

The 2016-2018 Urban Food Systems Challenge Area addressed feeding urban populations through urban and peri-urban agriculture and augmenting the capabilities of our current food system.

The Urban Food Systems Challenge Area continues this work and enhances our ability to feed urban populations.

Making My Plate Your Plate

Continue

FFAR’s 2016-2018 Making My Plate Your Plate Challenge Area focused on helping Americans meet the USDA 2015 Dietary Guideline recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, including research to both produce and provide access to nutritious fruits and vegetables.

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.