AUSTRALIAN scientists would scour the world for the natural enemies of the nation's most invasive weeds - which cost the country $5 billion every year - under an ambitious new proposal.
The 20-year plan would see a research and development pipeline of biocontrols added to Australia's weed management tool box.
The draft National Weed Biocontrol Pipeline Strategy has been put forward by the Centre of Invasive Species Solutions (CISS) and is open for public comment.
Under the plan, scientists travel the globe to the native ranges of priority weed targets and conduct surveys of their natural enemies.
Promising candidates will be brought back to Australian labs for a range of experiments, evaluating the risk of the bioagent to native and other non-target species.
Biocontrols would be field-trialled in small-scale releases and monitored, before getting the final tick of approval.
CISS chief executive Andreas Glanznig said Australia's weed biocontrol efforts had already delivered over $10 billion in benefits to date and have successfully managed major weed species such as prickly pear and Paterson's curse.
"These projects have greatly accelerated work on biocontrol agents for priority agricultural and environmental weeds, and the pipeline strategy aims to maintain the momentum developed over the past several years," said Mr Glanznig.
The CSIRO, who were heavily involved in formulating the draft plan, just released a fungus to fight flaxleaf fleabane, which costs grain crop revenue losses of more than $43 million each year.
CSIRO biosecurity research director Dr Raghu Sathyamurthy said that biocontrol has been a key part of Australia's weed management for the last 100 years and had returned at least $23 for every dollar invested.
"In an era of increasing herbicide resistance and growing threats from invasive weeds, having a long term strategy like this will be critical in sustaining weed biocontrol for the next century," Dr Sathyamurthy said.
Despite CISS's proven track record of delivering effective invasive species controls, including the K5 rabbit virus, the organisation's federal funding will expire within 12 months.
Several agricultural leaders have called on the government to renew the organisation's funding, while key crossbench Senator David Pocock wrote to Agriculture Minister Murray Watt, urging him to guarantee funding.
The consultation period for the draft strategy, which can be viewed at invasives.com.au - closes on September 23.