Australian pastoralists and graziers have long been the victims of introduced species impacting on productive land.
When chemical, mechanical or other methods of control become ineffective, too costly or have an adverse environmental effect, then a biological control option becomes a suitable long-term solution.
The CSIRO has been heavily involved in research for the control of weeds using biological control agents on invasive weed species in Australia since the 1920s.
What is biological control?
According the CSIRO: “The biological control approach makes use of the invasive plant’s naturally occurring enemies, to help reduce the invasive plant’s impact on agriculture and the environment. It simply aims to reunite weeds with their natural enemies and achieve sustainable weed control.”
An example of this is the introduction of the flea beetle, Longitarsus species, which was released in 14 local government areas in NSW to control the weed blue heliotrope, a declared noxious weed.
Before it was released, a considerable amount of testing was conducted to ensure the beetle, sourced from Argentina, did not itself become invasive, effecting non-target species such as native flora and fauna or agricultural plants.
Since their introduction the flea beetles have been credited with the death of blue heliotrope plants within its native range.
The CSIRO has many active biological control projects under way for both temperate and tropical Australian weeds that cause problems in natural, pastoral and agricultural ecosystems.