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For Immediate Release:
October 30, 2013
Media Contact:
Edith Torres

State Farm Presents $31,240 Check to the Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade and Students at Terra Agricultural Research Institute

State Farm presented a $31,240 check to the Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade and students at TERRA Agricultural Research Institute that will help pay for a new beetle-rearing laboratory at the school to be used for the Bio-control of the Air Potato Vine project that will be run by the students.  The check presentation took place Tuesday, October 29, at 12:30 p.m. at the site of the new laboratory. 

The bio-control method will consist of the rearing of the air potato leaf beetle, its scientific name being Lilioceris cheni (Lili), by TERRA students and their subsequent release into Kendall Indian Hammocks Park, a Miami-Dade County park with over 50 acres of “hammock” forest besieged by the invasive exotic Air Potato vine.  The “Lili” beetle is native to China, India, Nepal, Laos and Thailand and was first released in Florida in 2012 by USDA for biological control of the Air Potato.  The USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Invasive Plant Research Laboratory (USDA) in Fort Lauderdale, FL is providing the “Adam” and “Eve” initial starter beetles that will be reared in the TERRA laboratory and later released into the park under NAM and USDA supervision.  In addition, TERRA will be the only high school in Florida supplying the “Lili” beetle to other agencies for use where the Air Potato is also taking over native vegetation. 

The TERRA classroom laboratory is scheduled for completion by end of the year at which time a dedication ceremony will be planned, followed by a beetle release ceremony in spring/summer of next year.  

“This partnership will allow my students to engage firsthand in a very important aspect of the conservation and management of our natural areas, which is the use of biological controls in order to mitigate the effects of an invasive species," said Alex Salcedo, Conservation Biology teacher in charge of the bio-control project 

“State Farm supports service-learning because it integrates service to the community into classroom curriculum using a hands-on approach to mastering subject material while fostering civic responsibility,” said Jose Soto, State Farm Community Specialist in Miami.  “The State Farm Youth Advisory Board is a prime example of State Farm’s commitment to education, our community and our youth.” 

The Air Potato is a serious threat to South Florida’s environment, growing vines that are 30-40 feet long, stifling native plants and destroying landscaping and impacting the natural eco-system.  In South Florida they have been found in various communities in Miami-Dade County including Kendall, Coral Gables, Village of Palmetto Bay, Homestead, South Miami, Florida City, Miami Gardens, North Miami Beach and unincorporated areas of Miami-Dade County. 

Long standing partners for more than 15 years, the USDA and NAM began this joint venture to discover a safe and successful method for eradicating the exotic vine in 2011, when the USDA requested NAM’s help to provide a controlled living preserve in which to test the impact of the “Lili” beetle on Air Potato.  In November 2011, the first test-release of the beetles to combat the plant took place, and again in April 2013 with the assistance of TERRA students. 

Results from these releases are already evident at the test sites, with leaves and whole plants clearly showing the effects from of the beetles.  In those areas, the leaves look like lace patterns and many of the bulbils have also been affected, slowing the reproduction of the plant. 

“NAM’s participation in this project has been vital,” said Dr. Min Rayamajhi, a plant pathologist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service’s Invasive Plant Research Unit.  “NAM has provided us with a living laboratory without which this testing would not have been possible, and their bio-agricultural expertise in the removal of invasive non-native plants and bug control has been invaluable.  We are extremely appreciative of their assistance, as the Air Potato situation is urgently in need of a remedy for which currently there is none.” 

“NAM is a critical division of the Miami-Dade Parks Department,” said Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces Director Jack Kardys.  “This project is just one example of the dedicated and unsung work of these expert biologists that make up our NAM division, maintaining and restoring the natural eco-system of Miami-Dade County and protecting our environmental resources for people, wildlife and nature.” 

About State Farm®

State Farm and its affiliates are the largest provider of car insurance in the U.S. and is a leading insurer in Canada. In addition to providing auto insurance quotes, their 17,800 agents and more than 65,000 employees serve 81 million policies and accounts – more than 79 million auto, home, life and health policies in the United States and Canada, and nearly 2 million bank accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for renters, business owners, boats and motorcycles, is also available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 43 on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit or in Canada

About TERRA Environmental Research Institute

Affectionately known as the “Green School,” TERRA Environmental Research Institute is truly an extraordinary school. Housed in a brand new Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified building, our classrooms are equipped with the latest technological equipment such as multiple computer labs, Promethean boards, classroom surround sound systems, greenhouses, and state-of-the-art research laboratories. Inspired by global environmental conservation initiatives and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) National programs, TERRA opened its doors in the fall of 2009 and was established in the community as a sanctuary of academic excellence and environmental stewardship. Our students are taught by highly trained and committed teachers who are well-versed in concerns that currently plague our planet. TERRA’s students lead advanced scientific research projects in using multidisciplinary approaches and establishing connections between their research and the community through complex active service learning.

About Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department

Nationally accredited, a three-time winner of the NRPA National Gold Medal Award, winner of the 2013 Florida Governor’s Sustained Excellence Award and the 2009 Florida Governor’s Sterling Award for excellence in management and operations, Miami-Dade County Parks is the third largest county park system in the United States, consisting of 260 parks and 12,825 acres of land.  It is one of the most unique park and recreation systems in the world.  Made up of more than just playgrounds and athletic fields, it also comprises out-of-school, sports-development, and summer-camp programs; programs for seniors and people with disabilities; educational nature centers and nature preserves; environmental restoration efforts; arts and culture programs and events; the renowned Zoo Miami and the Deering Estate at Cutler; the Crandon Tennis Center, home of the Sony Open; golf courses; beaches; marinas; campgrounds; pools; and more.  For information about Miami-Dade County Parks call 3-1-1, or visit

About The Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade

The Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that supports the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department’s effort to further develop Miami-Dade County’s world-class parks system for residents and visitors.  Its mission is to create a healthier, more livable and sustainable Miami community by ensuring the implementation of the Parks Open Space Master Plan and the development of year-round park and recreation programs for local children, adults and people with disabilities.