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Approval has been given for an insect to be released to control the invasive Japanese knotweed in the North East.

The rampant plant, which was introduced in the mid-19th Century as an expensive ornamental species, costs the UK economy over £150m a year in control and clearance costs.

It grows at a rate of up to a metre a month, including through tarmac, concrete and drains, causing damage to roads and buildings and also stops other plants from growing, destroying habitats for native species.

Now the Government has given the go-ahead for the use of the psyllid insect, a predator of the plant in Japan, to act as a natural form of pest control – the first time such a solution has been used to help control the spread of a non-native invasive plant in Europe.

The insect will be released on secret trial sites, one of which is in the North of England. Trevor Renals, Environment Agency technical adviser for invasive species, said that the insect was expected to spread naturally and could reach the North East in two to three years.

He said: “Knotweed is a big problem in the North East. We all pay the bill for this plant through costs to organisations like councils and the Environment Agency, and operators like Network Rail suffer hugely.

“Knotweed will grow through tarmac like a knife through butter. It can structurally damage buildings and increases the costs of developing brownfield land.

“Our native plants have natural enemies but knotweed does not and so can grow vigorously. It can create such a monoculture that it may as well be an area of concrete.”

Four years ago North Tyneside Council issued an appeal for sightings of knotweed and has now mapped around 50 locations, including banksides at King Edward’s Bay in Tynemouth and on the edge of Northumberland Park. It has hired a contractor to treat the knotweed with herbicide and is now in the fourth year of spraying.

“We are still finding new sites. It is a problem for all councils and landowners,” said Jackie Hunter, council biodiversity officer. “I have also heard of people who have been refused mortgages because of knotweed on properties.”

Jim Cokill, director of Durham Wildlife Trust, said: “We get knotweed pretty much across all areas. It is an on-going headache and it is expensive because it is so labour intensive to get rid of.”

The psyllid was found on knotweed growing wild in Japan and has now been tested in the UK, focusing on closely related native species as well as important crops and ornamental species to ensure it does not attack other plants.

Wildlife Minister Huw Irranca-Davies said: “These tiny insects, which naturally prey on Japanese knotweed, will help free local authorities and industry from the huge cost of treating and killing this devastating plant.”



Company’s Registered Office Address: 597 Etruria Rd, Basford, Stoke On Trent, Staffordshire. ST4 6HP.
Japanese Knotweed Survey © Copyright 2010

Japanese knotweed survey, management, control, eradication & land remediation relief.
Areas include Staffordshire, Cheshire, West Midlands, Manchester, Birmingham & Stoke On Trent.

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