After completing my PhD at Rhodes University, South Africa in 2015, working on the origins of a submerged macrophyte Myriophyllum spicatum in southern Africa, I worked for 18 months in a post-doc position with the Rhodes University Biological Control Research Group, where my research was focused on post release evaluation of biological control agents on aquatic weeds in Africa. I started at CABI in June 2016 where I am based in the weeds section and involved in field surveys in Europe and Asia as well as host range and impact studies of potential biological control agents on several target weeds.
CABI’s Swiss centre carries out applied scientific research and undertakes consultancy projects. Located in Delémont in the Canton of Jura, it is the home base for experts and students from several different countries where they research and apply their knowledge.
Trade in seed brought crops to new regions, but many weeds were spread by this route too. Whitetops, also known as hoary cresses, arrived in the USA as contaminants of seed from Eurasia. They are now aggressive invaders of crops, rangeland and riverbanks. One reason for this is the absence of the natural enemies that keep them in check in their area of origin. CABI staff in Switzerland are looking into the prospects for biological control of these invasive plants.
Dyer’s woad is an ancient source of blue dye and was grown as a textile dye crop in Europe and Asia for centuries. It was introduced to North America by early colonists, but escaped cultivation. Today, it is recognized as a serious weed in the western USA. One reason for its impact is the absence of the natural enemies that keep it in check in its area of origin. CABI is searching for specialist natural enemies in Europe that could potentially be introduced for its biological control.
Russian olive is a significant invasive weed in North America but is perceived as a useful and attractive tree by some stakeholders. It is especially a problem in western parts of the USA where it affects many natural habitats, altering the ecosystem and its functions. Biological control is a useful approach in such circumstances because scientists can look for natural enemies that damage reproduction, and thus future spread, without damaging established trees.
Russian knapweed is one of several invasive plants of rangelands that arrived in North America as a seed contaminant in the 19th century, in this case from Asia. Biological control is often a good approach for these plants, but a nematode species introduced in the 1970s proved ineffective against Russian knapweed. Funded by a US and Canadian consortium, CABI has been tasked with researching new biological control agents for introduction, some of which are already showing promise.