African boxthorn

Current research (2023-2026)

For further information on the rollout of the rust fungus to help control African boxthorn in NSW, please see the dedicated CSIRO website on African boxthorn at the following link: 

Previous research (2019 – 2023)

The NSW Environmental Trust was one of the key cash contributors to the national project ‘Underpinning agricultural productivity and biosecurity by weed biological control’, supported by the Australian Government programme Rural Research and Development for Profit (RRnD4P) (Round 4), administered by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. The three-year project (2019-2022) was led by AgriFutures Australia, focusing on 11 different weed targets, and included researchers from four agencies with capabilities and infrastructure to undertake weed biocontrol research in Australia (CSIRO, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Victoria Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources). African boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum) was one of the weed targets in which the NSW Environmental Trust co-invested. Ben Gooden and Michelle Rafter of CSIRO co-led this sub-project.

Several candidate biocontrol agents were identified on African boxthorn in its native range, South Africa. The projects (Round 2 and Round 4) conducted risk assessments (host-specificity testing) of promising candidate agents for this weed to determine that they would not pose a threat to non-target plants if introduced into Australia.

Concurrently, permanent plots were set up in African boxthorn infestations across most of its range in Australia, including NSW, and baseline vegetation data gathered to facilitate future evaluation of the impact of agents approved for release.

African boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum) is a very thorny large shrub with fleshy fruits that invades native vegetation and pastures after disturbance (Photo: B. Gooden).