Lantana: the importance of knowing your enemy
Detective-like research has revealed that Australian weedy lantana is likely to have originated from the Caribbean and Venezuela and not, as it was believed, from Brazil and Mexico where many of its bio-control agents have been sourced from, raising the prospect of finding more effective agents than those that have been released in the past.
10 December 2009 | Updated 14 October 2011
A critical factor when searching for a control to a devastating weed is to know where exactly it comes from.
In the case of an invasive species like Lantana, this determines failure or success in controlling a plant known for being resistant to herbicides, fire and defoliation, and for poisoning cattle and invading millions of hectares of farmland and native forests worldwide.
CSIRO scientist and researcher at the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Dr Richard Watts, has unravelled the origins of Australian weedy lantana by using genetics to map the geographic origins of the lantana introduced to Australia during the 19th century.
The discovery of the geographic origin of this weed represents an essential step to finding successful biological control agents (such as insects and micro-organisms) which may be used to control the plant using predation or disease.
This project is part of the Taxonomy Research & Information Network (TRIN) environmental weeds project.
The project was established to identify the species identity, hybridisation patterns and origins of Australia’s most serious environmental weeds.
The research utilises the collection resources of the Australian National Herbarium and its partner agencies, and maintains active collaborations with State and Federal biologists and weed managers.
The lantana research is conducted in collaboration with entomologist Dr Michael Day of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries.
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