FFAR Grant Addresses Cattle Fever Tick Re-Invasion in Texas
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 & 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. 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.Sally Rockey, Ph.D.
Executive Director Emeritus
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 & Agriculture Research
The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.