Tuesday, 9 March 2010

It's Psyllid!

I notice from the news that they have decided not to heed my advice about the potential dangers of attempting to biological control Japanese knotweed by using an alien psyllid insect(http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/mar/09/moth-kill-knotweed). The psyllid is not a moth (it's more closely related to greenfly and scale insects and we know how good they are for plants!). Even more scary is the fact that the sap-sucker (which it is hoped will stick exclusively to knotweed) is being used to introduce a fungal pathogen to the target plants. I appreciate that Japanese knotweed is a very serious alien problem itself, causing lots of damage (especially around the Swansea area) but approximately 50% of attempts at biological control have produced real problems. Horrors include the introduction of the diurnal Mongoose to Hawaii in an attempt to control nocturnal rats in Sugarcane fields leading to the decimation of endemic ground nesting birds. The Cane toad, in turn, was transported to Australia to deal with a damaging beetle in the same crop but ended up killing many unique reptiles and mammals. I appreciate that these are 'old news' and that things are better planned nowadays but I feel that it is very difficult to prevent agents escaping from trial areas. It is also hard to predict precise impacts of these alien agents in the real world. I do hope that my fears are unfounded.

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