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New fight against Japanese knotweed

[Monday 13 October 2008]

BRITISH scientists looking for a way of controlling the spread of Japanese knotweed – one of the most invasive plants ever to be introduced into the UK – have discovered an insect which can kill the plant by sucking out its sap.

The researchers had been to Japan to find out why the knotweed - which has spread like wildfire alongside rivers, becks, drainage ditches and even gardens in the Yorkshire Dales - is much less invasive in its native land.

They found that, at home, it faces threats from no fewer than 40 insect and plant fungi which attacked it, none of which are found in the UK.

The most formidable was an insect called Aphalara itadori, which literally sucks the plant dry. Now, they want to set up a trial by releasing some of the bugs in England to see if it will control the weed.

Japanese knotweed, like so many invasive plants and animals the grey squirrel, was introduced into England in the 19th Century by wealthy landowners and industrialists as status symbols on their country estates.

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