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African boxthorn biological control

African boxthorn (photo courtesy of John Heap PIRSA)

African boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum) is a widespread and significant environmental and agricultural weed in regional Australia, native to South Africa. It is difficult to control due to its establishment as dense, impenetrable and thorny thickets, presence across a broad range of landscapes and continued spread. Current physical and chemical control measures are considered to be quite destructive and therefore unsuitable in culturally valuable and ecologically sensitive areas, as this requires extensive planning and is unsustainable over large areas. Biological control offers promise as a control method as it is a safe, non-destructive, cost effective and sustainable method of control. The relative taxonomic isolation of African Boxthorn to native Australian flora, together with its negative impact profile, makes the species a suitable target for biological control. Our research focuses on identifying which of the many natural enemies that attack African boxthorn in the native range of South Africa are the most appropriate candidate biological control agents for this weed.

This research on African boxthorn is part of the project ‘Biocontrol solutions for sustainable management of weed impacts to agricultural profitability’, led by AgriFutures Australia (formerly the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC)). This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit programme. Biosecurity South Australia (PrimaIndustries and Regions South Australia) and the Shire of Ravensthorpe, Western Australia, are acknowledged for their financial support to the African boxthorn component of the project.