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Oui, CSIRO has a lab in France. And it’s 50!

Did you know we own and run a lab in France? Because oui do (sorry, last French pun), and this year it’s celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Some of the lab’s early projects included weed biological control, like the 1965 Wheat Industry Research Council-funded work on management options for skeleton weed, Chondrilla juncea.

The team continues to contribute to CSIRO’s many successful biological control programs, particularly as the local team members have a greater understanding of the ecology of potential biocontrol agents and their interactions with various targets, and can undertake risk assessments in the field.

The lab boasts several impactful successes over the last half a century. Let’s look at three.

 

The noble dung beetle works hard to help us have bushfly-free BBQs.bettle

Dung beetles, saving the nation from flies

The famous Aussie salute – waving flies away – might be a lot more common if it weren’t for the National Dung Beetle Program of the 1960s-90s. Dung beetles’ activities recycle nutrients into the soil, and disturbs and buries bushfly breeding sites.

Our Montpellier lab served as a base for collection of European beetles for the cooler southern areas of Australia – work that has helped us happily enjoy outdoor activities in the summer months, like BBQs, without being smothered by flies. Go dung beetles!

World first: biological control of invasive weeds

In 1971, the team at Montpellier had grown to seven, including plant pathologist, Siraj Hasan. This team played an instrumental role in the world’s first successful weed biological control program using a plant pathogen, when they discovered rust fungus Puccinia chondrillina could be used to control skeleton weed in grain production systems.

Controlling Paterson’s curse

One of the most identifiable weeds in Australia, Paterson’s curse sports bright purple flowers. Unfortunately that’s its only redeeming feature here, as it’s a noxious weed that turfs out desirable plants in pastures and causes headaches for farmers.

The Montpellier team has done some fantastic work in this space, successfully controlling the weed using three insect biological control agents: the weevils Mogulones iarvatus and Mogulones geographicus, and the flea beetle Longitarsus echii – generating billion dollar benefits for Australian agriculture.

 

team

[L-R] José Serin, Mireille Jourdan, Andy Sheppard, Mélodie Ollivier, Vincent Lesieur and Thierry Thomann. The team thanks Andy (Research Director in Health and Biosecurity) for his long standing support.

Montpellier into the future

CSIRO bought land and built its own facilities in the early 1990s, and the Montpellier site has grown to be an integral part of the Health and Biosecurity business unit.

This year the lab has seen a suite of new projects start, and the growing team is now focussed on dung beetles, snail biocontrol and two weed biocontrol projects – sowthistle and angled onion.

Congratulations to the European team. The work you are doing is magnifique!

Read more about the Montpellier team’s work on skeleton weed.


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