Talk: biological control of alien plants

2013-08-20 00:00

THE threats posed by invasive alien plants will be discussed by Dr Terry Olckers at this week’s Royal Society of South Africa lecture in the John Bews lecture theatre on the Life Sciences campus of the University of Kwa­Zulu-Natal in Carbis Road, Pietermaritzburg, at 5.45 pm tomorrow.

His lecture is titled: “Celebrating a century of weed biological control in South Africa — the struggle continues”.

Dr Olckers will provide a brief overview of biological weed control activities in South Africa over the past 100 years, highlighting novel aspects of the South African approach and considering the way forward.

Biological control using host-specific natural enemies, mostly insects, but also pathogens, offers a safe and sustainable remedy that has been implemented in South Africa since 1913.

While several successes have been achieved on a number of priority species, the rate of invasions by “new” species provides a continual challenge.

South Africa is one of the world’s most active countries in this field and has undertaken several novel approaches in recent years to combat the escalating problem of alien plant invasions.

These include significant state intervention, notably substantial funding for research and the building of human capacity in biological control.

Olckers is an applied entomologist, with a particular interest in the biological control of invasive alien plants.

Following the completion of his PhD at Rhodes University in 1989, he joined the Weeds Research Division of the Agricultural Research Council — Plant Protection Research Institute. During his 16 years there, he worked on several projects that included studies in South America. In 2004, he was appointed as a senior lecturer at UKZN, where, together with his team of post-graduate students, he has continued his work on invasive plants.

Light refreshments will be supplied. Inquiries: Professor Mike Perrin at 033 260 5118 or 033 260 5435.

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