An Invasive Pest to Control an Invasive Weed!

Most of us are aware of the risks associated with Japanese knotweed on land development. Any plant that has the potential to grow 3m to 4m in a single season with the ability to damage underground services, force its way through walls, tarmac and even concrete paving is to be treated with caution.

At the beginning of November 2008, Baroness Sharples asked the House of Lords what steps would be taken to eradicate the spread of Japanese knotweed across the UK.
The Minister of State for Defra, Lord Hunt, responded that "the cost of eradicating Japanese knotweek from Great Britain was estimated at £1.56 billion. Eradication is, therefore, beyond any realistic prospect". He confirmed that his department has supported research into the potential for safe biological control of Japanese knotweed.
The research mentioned revolves around the introduction of a 2mm Japanese insect, a type of psyllid, to manage and control the invasive growth of Japanese knotweed.
I welcome any advances in the control of Japanese knotweek that could lead to a reduction in the use of herbicides and the excavation and removal of infected plant materials and soils. However, we must remain cautious at the prospect of introducing one predatory species to control another. Japanese knotweed was, after all, introduced to the UK by the Victorians who admired its pretty foliage and flowers but were unaware of its potential to spread wholesale across the country. It only needs a 10mm length of rhizome (root) to germinate into a new plant, even if left dormant for many years. Let's tread carefully here. We do not want to repeat the bio-control mishaps of the past (e.g. the cane toad).

Andy O''Dea

Topics: edie
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