Biological control of weeds in South Africa: where are we going from here?

Biological control of weeds in South Africa: where are we going from here?
Iain D. Paterson
1, Martin P. Hill1, Costas Zachariades2,3
1 Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
2 ARC – Plant Protection Research Institute, Private Bag X6006, Hilton 3245, South Africa
3  School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville 3209, South Africa

Pre-release studies have been the strength of South African weed biological control and have played an important role in a number of successes and the excellent safety record. However, post-release research, especially studies that aim to quantify the benefits provided by biological control, as well as the implementation of pre-release research, have to some extent been neglected.

South African weed biological control is currently thriving primarily due to sustainable funding received from Environment Programmes in the Department of Environmental Affairs. In order to take full advantage of this strong position more research should be focused on large scale evaluations of the environmental, economic and social impact of biological control.  Additional focus should be given towards the implementation of the excellent pre-release work that has been conducted so that the maximum benefits of biological control can be realised. Indeed, there is an opportunity to create a significant number of jobs in mass-rearing and post-release monitoring programmes which could increase the scale of post-release monitoring and improve implementation efforts.

Future programmes should aim to tackle the worst of South Africa’s Invasive Alien Plant problems because this is where biological control will provide the most benefit. These challenging projects require a multi-disciplinary approach including aspects of biology, ecology, hydrology, economics and sociology. In most cases an integrated control strategy that incorporates environmental management, mechanical, chemical and biological control will be required. The Environment Programmes funding provides an opportunity for biological control in South Africa to improve in areas where there have been shortfalls and to tackle difficult projects that may not have been feasible in the past. This should result in a significant reduction in the negative impacts of invasive plants in the country.