Managing Bellyache Bush
Bellyache bush, Jatropha gossypiifolia, is a serious and expanding weed of northern Queensland. It invades grazing land, particularly riparian zones, forming dense thickets that reduce pasture and cattle productivity. All parts of the plant, especially the seeds, are toxic and there have been several instances where the death of grazing animals has been attributed to bellyache bush. There have been increasing community requests for recommencement of a biocontrol program on bellyache bush, which is now spreading to isolated regions of Cape York, the Gulf of Carpentaria, Lake Eyre Basin, the Northern Territory and the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Having an effective biocontrol agent is considered necessary to halt its spread and reduce its impact.
What are we doing?
There are a limited number of promising biocontrol agents for bellyache bush with the best candidate being the Jatropha rust (Phakopsora jatrophicola). CABI (UK) is conducting screening studies on the pathogenicity, and preliminary host specificity testing of one of the rust strains from Mexico. This project will provide funding to expand the CABI host specificity testing to include additional bellyache bush populations (6 varieties) as well as multiple Jatropha rust stains (from four countries) to ensure we identify the optimal strain(s).