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The 14th International Symposium on the Biological Control of Weeds, Kruger National Park, South Africa 2nd – 7th March 2014.
The 14th ISBCW was held in South Africa to celebrate 100 years of weed biocontrol in South Africa and was coorganised by the Agricultural Research Council, the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University.
Attended by 156 delegates, this conference brings together applied biologists every four years, to discuss weed biocontrol using plant pathogens and arthropods.
The scientific programme was divided into nine sessions exploring all aspects of weed biocontrol; from host specificity testing of biocontrol agents to implementation. The poster sessions were revamped as five minute speed talks integrated within the oral sessions, offering more detail than traditional sessions. Three evening workshops took place, inviting discussion on Tamarix spp. , Chromolaena and ‘Barriers to biocontrol in the developing world’.
Social activities included a traditional South African ‘potjie’ dinner as well as morning and evening game drives throughout the conference, not to mention the customary international drinks evening where delegates were invited to bring a drink from their country to share.
The conference opened with a presentation by William Bond who described the past, present and future of Africa’s grasslands in relation to climate change. This was followed by John Hoffman’s interesting review of South Africa’s history in weed biocontrol, including some of weed biocontrol’s great successes in particular with floating water weeds Pistia stratiotes, Salvinia molesta and Azolla filiculoides.
This year’s meeting revealed that alongside the usual countries working in this field, there is an increased interest in weed biocontrol in Europe. Robert Tanner presented his research elucidating the life cycle of the Himalayan rust fungus Puccinia komarovii var. glanduliferae and studies on its host; Impatiens glandulifera which is likely to become the EU’s first fungal biological control agent released to control a weed.
The efficacy of biological control agents was another interesting session. In a conference dominated by arthropod biological control agents, it was encouraging to hear of Louise Morin’s continued success with the white-smut fungus Entyloma ageratinae used to control Ageratina riparia (Mistflower) in Australia.
The percentage cover and biomass of mistflower was reduced by 50% in the first 18 months and has led to the recovery of native plants.
I would like to thank the BSPP for the financial assistance to attend this important conference. It gave me the opportunity to present my own research on the biological control of the Australian water weed, Crassula helmsii and the plant pathogens associated with it.
Sonal Varia CABI.