Invasive plants: New pasture plants pose weed risk

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Many new plant varieties that are sold for livestock pasture pose a weed risk that jeopardizes their purpose — the sustainable intensification of agriculture — by increasing the environmental costs of food production. We urge governments to include potential environmental damage when screening new pasture varieties and to introduce a 'polluter pays' penalty system.

More than 90% of new pasture- plant species are invasive weeds with characteristics that include fast growth and wide-ranging environmental tolerance (see D. A. Driscoll et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 1662216627; 2014). The consequences have been disastrous in some countries, including Australia and the United States, where buffel grass, for example, increases fire risk and transforms ecosystems.

Worldwide, limited regulation of new pasture varieties places the environment at increased weed risk. We suggest that agribusinesses should be held financially accountable for environmental damage that their products cause, providing incentives to stem the threat from invasive pasture plants.

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  1. Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

    • Don Driscoll &
    • Jane Catford

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  1. Report this comment #64573

    Jean SmilingCoyote said:

    I'm guessing that most of the characteristics which make these plants suitable for "sustainable intensification of agriculture" also make them "invasive weeds." There may also be the fact that in many places, the livestock species are also aliens.

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