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ISC and its partners organised the 9th edition of the Science Summit around the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA78) on 12-29 September 2023.
The role and contribution of science to attaining the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be the central theme of the Summit. The objective is to develop and launch science collaborations to demonstrate global science mechanisms and activities to support the attainment of the UN SDGs, Agenda 2030 and Local2030. The meeting will also prepare input for the United Nations Summit of the Future, which will take place during UNGA79 beginning on 12 September 2024.
avatar for Martin Hill

Martin Hill

Centre for Biological Control, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University
Head of Centre for Biological Control

Abbreviated CV

Martin Hill

My research focus is broadly biological control, or both plant and insect pests in an attempt to find alternative ways to control these pests that reduces the amount of pesticides and herbicides used in the world. One of the main research areas has been the biological control of invasive aquatic plant species, including notorious weeds such as water hyacinth and salvinia. I have implemented the outcomes of my research on the biological control of water weeds in a number of countries around the world, including: Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Papua New Guinea, Cameroon, China, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Ghana, Benin and Senegal. The most notable projects that I have been involved with is the biological control of water hyacinth on Lake Victoria in the late 1990s and the near eradication of red water fern in South Africa. Much of this research has become multidisciplinary and includes strong social and economic aspects.
Since the early 2000s I have also worked towards more sustainable control of insect pests, mostly in the citrus industry through the development of entomopathogenic fungi and viruses into mycoinsecticides as biological controls. This research has resulted in the filing of a patent on a new virus isolate for the control of several lepidopterous pests of tree crops, including codling moth on apples, and has great potential for the organic fruit market in Europe.
I have been successful in raising research funds from a number of different organizations, and currently the weed research programme is sponsored through a three year R 77 million grant from the Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa and a National Research Foundation 5 year SARChI prestigious research chair, while the agricultural research is funded through industry. This allowed me to establish the Centre for Biological Control at Rhodes University in 2017.

Biological control using host-specific natural enemies has been used as a management tool for invasive alien plant species and crop pests in Africa since the early 20th century. South Africa was the first country to deliberately introduce a weed biocontrol agent to control an invasive alien weed (Dactylopius ceylonicus on Opuntia monacantha in 1913). This was followed by several decades of largely successful Opuntia spp. biocontrol in a number of countries. In the late 1940s, Cordia curassavica was successfully controlled in Mauritius, while in 1953, the first biological control agent against Lantana camara in Africa was released in Kenya. Several species of floating aquatic plants were successfully targeted across Africa, starting in 1969 with Salvinia molesta in Zimbabwe, and gaining momentum in 1990s, with large regional projects on most notably Pontederia crassipes on Lake Victoria and elsewhere, but also Pistia stratiotes. To date some 141 species of biological control agents have contributed to the control of 69 weed species in 30 countries. The risks of classical biological control are extremely low with no sustained non-target impacts being recorded in Sub-Saharan Africa whilst the benefits are high with benefit to cost ratios ranging from 15:1 to 4333:1 for those projects measured. The increasing number of invasive alien weeds coupled with international pressure to reduce reliance on pesticides bodes well for the uptake of classical biological control and the development of biopesticides on the continent.