South Africa relies heavily on its farming industry, but when an invasive grass species threaten to decimate large amounts of grazing fields, something has to be done.

This is where South African Nation Space Agency (Sansa) has stepped in to help. In collaboration with the national Department of Agriculture, Sansa is looking at methods of detecting and mapping the density of bankrupt bush (Seriphium plumosum).

The bush, which is widely found in the Free State, North West, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kwazulu-Natal, has the potential to pretty much kill anything that grows close to it, and cows can’t graze on it either. Currently, bankrupt bush has encroached onto about 11 million hectares of land in the country.

“SANSA officials, Morwapula Mashalane and Oupa Malahlela, were sent to Senekal in the Free State to do a field study to look at methods of detecting and mapping the density of these invasive shrubs using satellite remote sensing technology. The mapping of this Bankrupt bush will assist in the correct application of Herbicides which, when not applied correctly, can have devastating effects on the natural environment and water resources within the areas of application,” Sansa said in a blog post.

By using sophisticated technology gained from satellite imagery and field studies such as this, Sansa will be able to determine exactly where the bankrupt bush is growing, and at what rate. This will make it easier for farmers on the ground to eradicate.

“In the majority of cases, farmers lost between 30% – 60 % of their grazing capacity. As the Bankrupt Bush plants mature, they suppress natural vegetation until the areas become a “green desert” with nothing else than Bankrupt bush alone.”

It is anticipated that the results of the study will be released to the public around May 2016.