Weed control

La Trobe researcher explores how weeds adapt and change, how their spread can be prevented

Weeds often have far-reaching impacts on food security and environmental protection. These unwanted plants cost the Australian economy millions of dollars each year through reduced food production, expensive weed control practices and decline in biodiversity.

Dr Ali Bajwa, Senior Agronomy Lecturer in the Department of Animal, Plant and Soil Sciences, has made it his mission to be one step ahead of weeds by understanding how they work.

Despite being an age-old problem, researchers still don’t fully understand the ways in which weeds are able to adapt and change at a biological level – “nor how this affects their interactions with natural ecosystems and agricultural production systems,” Dr Bajwa observes.

“To tackle this, I study weed biology and ecology, which informs the development of what we call ecological weed management,” Dr Bajwa says.

Dr Bajwa explores how weeds adapt and change, how their spread can be prevented and how our reliance on herbicides can be reduced.

“Australia is home to over 2,000 invasive plant species and weeds,” says Dr Bajwa. “This represents a significant challenge, and one that many industries are desperate to overcome.”

When reflecting on the task ahead, Dr Bajwa’s enthusiasm for the scale and promise of his research is clear.

“Our latest projects are really exciting,” Dr Bajwa says.

“We’re using our growing knowledge of weed biology – specifically, how weeds adapt to their environment – to explore new management options that will impact grain production in Victoria and the broader southern Australian region,” says Dr Bajwa.

“We will also be studying the impacts of climate change on weed biology in this region, to help future-proof the grain crops that are so important for our food production.”