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"Australia’s native dung beetles which evolved with the marsupials, were not adapted to use and disperse cattle dung effectively, causing several problems. Cow dung is a major breeding ground for the buffalo fly, the native bush fly and four species of biting midges, some of which are known vectors of diseases such as ephemeral fever. Dung fouls pasture, obstructing plant growth and promoting rank unpalatable growth around the edge of dung pats. Dung also immobilises plant nutrients in undecomposed dung pats, retarding the recycling process.

In the late 1950s George Bornemissza, suggested that foreign dung beetles could usefully be imported into Australia and led the subsequent research program at the Division of Entomology in Canberra. Between 1967 and 1982, CSIRO imported 55 species of dung beetles for release in Australia. Of these, 37 were intended for summer rainfall regions of Northern Australia. Eight species were reared in insufficient numbers, but the remaining 29 species were liberated in at least one locality in Northern Australia; of these 22 originated from southern Africa.

It has been described as one of the greatest stories of Australian science because of its impact on sustainable agriculture. When the beetles bring dung down into tunnels, they are putting down fertiliser as well as creating holes and tunnels that help with water penetration when it rains. The disposal of dung reduces flies and breaks the parasite cycle. For every litre of dung that’s taken down, a litre of subsoil is brought to the surface. When the beetles have left after about three or four weeks, the earthworms move in and move down the tunnels, eating the dung and filling the tunnels with loosely packed earth worm casts thus replacing the need for fertiliser. It is an amazingly efficient system now being continued by land-care groups in Australia."

(Source: CSIRO website)








George Bornemissza and Dung Beetles

George Bornemissza introduced industrious dung beetles into Australia from 1967 onwards to dispose of cow pads that normally remained on the ground for months, even years. Unburied dung covered valuable grazing land and was a breeding ground for flies. The beetles break up the pad and bury the rolled dung balls after laying their eggs in them. The work controlled the bush fly nuisance and helped to improve soil fertility. 




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