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South African quarry discovery helps Aussie weed control


A new revelation about a South African quarry has led to a potential breakthrough in Australian weed management with the bitou bush.

The CSIRO’s Bruce Webber and John Scott have produced new research into the South African shrub bitou bush which has invaded the east coast of Australia.

For a long time, treatments were sourced from South Africa to handle the invasive species which was damaging the coastline of Australia.

Previous treatment agents were targeted at bitou bush but they came from populations only distantly related to the material introduced into Australia (so from a different area in South Africa).

Knowing now the specific locality where the bitou bush originated will allow future biocontrol programs to look just at this area for biocontrol agents targeted at these original host populations.

Webber and Scott analysed old maps of East London in South Africa which revealed a ballast quarry near the Port of East London which often had ships travel to Australia.

It existed more than 100 years ago in 1902 and is still visible today as the ballast was sent to Australia and used to help balance ships with light cargo loads, according to the report.

The pair have found bitou bush around the quarry and believe it could have mixed in with the ballast being sent to Australia.

Scott and Webber believe, according to their report, knowing that the bitou bush originated from England will help select a better-suited weed management tool or plan.

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