Beetles go into battle in War of Superweed
This article has been reproduced by permision from the Daily Express News Paper on sale 22/05/2001.
The artical was written by John Ingham their Environment Editor
BRITAIN may use biological warfare
to tame a Triffid like weed
which can grow through concrete
The Environment Agency is considering plans to bring beetles
and fungus halfway round the world
to take on Japanese Knotweed
The giant plant which was brought to Britain 120 years ago
by collectors, has no natural enemines here. It has now exploded ot of its stronghold in the South-West and got as far north as Edinburgh. The agency is studying a £500.000 proposal for a research team to find the plant's natural predators in Japan and bring them here. It would be the first time that the government has chosen to use foreign biological controls on a national scale.
The agency is under pressure to find a solution because the bill
for repairing the damage the plant
causes and for trying to control it runs into tens of millions of pounds every year.
Swansea City Council has been forced
to appoint a knotweed officer after watching it engulf 170 acres of parks and wasteland.
Japanese knotweed has now cross- bred with giant knotweed to produce
an even tougher hybrid superweed.
Trevor Renals of the agency's Cornwall
office said: "we can either let it spread and it will take over large areas or we can spend years spraying thousands of
gallons of herbicide on it.
"Or in the longer term we can consider
using natural control methods. That will be a much more sustainable and environmentally sound option. In Japan
the knotweed is eaten by a wide range of beetles and fungi and as a
result is a small plant that lives in
harmony with other plants.
Knotweed grows rapidly to a height of about 12 feet in 12 weeks.
Its roots also spread up to 15 feet
underground and 21 feet across in
any direction. It smothers other plants.
The four-year study of foreign predators has been proposed by
Dick Shaw of Berkshire-based CABI
He said: "It is almost impossible
to dig it out because its roots extend
so far underground and a fragment the size of a fingernail is enough to produce a new plant.
"The idea is to continually debilitate the plant with natural enemies rather than through the repeated use of herbicides. We want
to restore the balance of nature.