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Grasses as suitable targets for classical weed biological control

  • G. F. SuttonEmail author
  • K. Canavan
  • M. D. Day
  • A. den Breeyen
  • J. A. Goolsby
  • M. Cristofaro
  • A. McConnachie
  • I. D. Paterson


Grasses are amongst the most abundant and environmentally damaging invasive weeds worldwide. Biological control is frequently employed as a sustainable and cost-effective management strategy for many weeds. However, grasses have not been actively pursued as targets for classical weed biological control due to a perceived lack of sufficiently specialised and damaging natural enemies to use as biological control agents. There are also concerns that the risk posed to economically important crop/pasture species and closely-related native species is too great to consider implementing biological control for invasive grasses. In this paper, we review the literature and demonstrate that grasses can possess suitably host-specific and damaging natural enemies to warrant consideration as potential biological control agents. The risk of grass biological control is no greater than for other weedy taxa if practitioners follow appropriately rigorous risk assessments protocols.


Invasive grass Arundo donax Phragmites australis Tetramesa Andropogon gayanus Host specificity 



S. Raghu and Martin Hill are thanked for providing valuable feedback on an earlier draft of this manuscript. We thank the editor, and two anonymous reviewers whose comments significantly improved this manuscript. This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as part of its Rural R&D for Profit programme. The authors gratefully acknowledge funding support provided by the Australian Government through AgriFutures Australia, the CSIRO, and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for funding and the provision of this research project, and Rhodes University for logistical support. Part of the funding for this work was provided by the South African Research Chairs Initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation of South Africa. Any opinion, finding, conclusion or recommendation expressed in this material is that of the authors and the NRF does not accept any liability in this regard. Funding was also provided by the Working for Water (WfW) programme of the Department of Environmental Affairs: Natural Resource Management programme (DEA: NRM).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

This paper does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. F. Sutton
    • 1
    Email author
  • K. Canavan
    • 1
  • M. D. Day
    • 2
  • A. den Breeyen
    • 3
  • J. A. Goolsby
    • 4
  • M. Cristofaro
    • 5
    • 6
  • A. McConnachie
    • 7
  • I. D. Paterson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoology and Entomology, Centre for Biological ControlRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Agriculture and FisheriesBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.ARC-Plant Health and Protection, Weed Pathology UnitStellenboschSouth Africa
  4. 4.United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Plains Area, Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory, Cattle Fever Tick Research LaboratoryEdinburgUSA
  5. 5.Biotechnology and Biocontrol AgencyRomeItaly
  6. 6.ENEA, C. R. CasacciaRomeItaly
  7. 7.Weed Research Unit, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Biosecurity and Food SafetyOrangeAustralia

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