Indigenous Plants Invasive Elsewhere

Programme Manager: Dr Grant Martin

Weed biological control processes often require international cooperation to succeed. This is because natural enemies are predominantly sourced from the countries in which the relative weed is native. However, collection and exportation of natural enemies (insects/pathogens) for biological control research in several countries is becoming challenging and slower because agreements governing the access to the agents need to be established between the involved parties. As such, there is a growing need for international cooperation between like-minded biological control international practitioners. Many of the biological control agents released against weeds in South African have been obtained through collaborations with source countries.

South Africa is a significant source of invasive weed species across the world, hence has a responsibility to take part in the fight against invasive plants across the globe. The primary aim of the Indigenous Plants Invasive Elsewhere Programme is to work in collaboration with countries where South African plants are invasive and assist them with obtaining potential biological control agents. Weed biological control often requires extensive surveys of potential biological control agents in the country where the relative plant originates, hence the programme offers such services. Currently, we are working in collaboration with CSIRO Australia and the Queensland State Government – Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to obtain agents for African boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum), Gamba grass (Andropogon gayanus) and Giant Rat’s Tail Grasses (Sporobolus pyramidalis and S. natalensis).

The Indigenous Plants Invasive Elsewhere Programme also seeks to develop a strategy of anticipating biological control needs of countries by generating a list of potential biological control agents that could assist with the management of weeds that are or potentially can be, invasive elsewhere. Much of the information on plant-insect associations is already present, but disjointed, sometimes anecdotal and difficult to access. In the future, the Indigenous Plants Invasive Elsewhere Programme seeks to collaborate with other researchers and institutions in South Africa to generate biodiversity knowledge on plant-insect interactions of biological control importance and facilitate the ease of access for global use. The main output of such a project will be a list of novel biological control targets. The records will provide incentives for countries practicing biological control to collaborate with South Africa, hence indirectly improving biological control success and practices in South Africa. The project will represent a novel approach of tackling plant invasions in which in all likelihood, reciprocal efforts may be extended by like-minded international practitioners.