Science: Pest Against Pest

Few plants are as useless, ugly and loathsome as the creeping puncture weed that straggles haphazardly across most of the western U.S. The puncture weed's burrlike seeds can flatten bicycle tires, foul up cotton-picking machinery, rip through horsehide and gouge cattle. Humans get stabbed by the burrs when they garden, walk barefoot or when they pitch in to a harvest. Even the puncture weed's scientific name, Tribulus terrestris—"earthly bed of spikes," takes account of the tribulations it causes.*

Last week biologists were well into the decisive battle of a long campaign to bring the...

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