Weed from Hell Invades Florida

Tropical Soda Apple

Tropical Soda Apple

Tropical soda apple (TSA) is a weed native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay that has invaded Florida. The pathway of introduction is unknown, but it may have been accidentally introduced with cattle carrying undigested TSA seeds. Currently, more than 404,000 acres are believed infested in Florida. TSA invades pasture, where it reduces livestock carrying capacity. Dense stands of the prickly shrub prevent cattle access to shaded areas, which results in summer heat stress and economic losses from cattle heat stress have been estimated at $2 million. TSA is a reservoir for at least six crop viruses; in addition, major insect pests use TSA as an alternate host. Herbicides are a major management practice for this “weed from hell.”

“Tropical soda apple (TSA) is an invasive weed of agricultural and natural areas in Florida. The plant is native to South America and was first found in south Florida in 1988. Its spiny foliage and stems are unpalatable to livestock, and dense stands of this prickly plant often grow into large impenetrable thickets.

In some areas of central and south Florida, TSA has covered entire pastures, rendering them unusable for grazing livestock. Some have called this weed the “plant from hell”.

The preferred methods of TSA control were chemical herbicides and mowing. On a statewide basis, 20% of cattle producers used herbicides alone, 7% used mowing alone, and 20% used both methods. Triclopyr and glyphosate were the two most commonly used herbicides reported by cattle producers. However, many had begun using amino-pyralid, an herbicide registered for use in pasture and rangeland in 2005, and becoming the new standard for TSA control. With continued TSA spread and the absence of alternative effective control measures, it is likely that the demand for these herbicides will continue to grow.”

Authors: Salaudeen, T., et al.
Affiliation: College of Agriculture, Florida A&M University.
Title: Economic impact of tropical soda apple (Solanum viarum) on Florida cattle production.
Source: Weed Technology. 2013. 27:389-394.