A North Yorkshire based start-up has discovered a novel herbicide with the potential to eradicate this invasive Japanese Knotweed that costs the UK hundreds of million pounds a year.
Collaborating with Swansea-based internationally renowned Knotweed specialist Dr Dan Jones they have tested the herbicide’s effectiveness against established plants with promising results.
Japanese knotweed is a fast-growing invasive plant found across the UK, particularly in urban settings. Due to tall, dense growth it is known to cause damage to buildings and negatively impact local biodiversity. It is problematic to remediate/eradicate and control it may take several years to effectively manage making it expensive to control. As such, property values can be reduced substantially by the presence of the plant.
What makes this invasive species challenging is its below ground root system called ‘rhizomes’. This growth is best visualised using the iceberg analogy – more than 50% of the knotweed plant is below ground. This makes complete removal (remediation/eradication) of the plant difficult and costly.
Recent Swansea University research also demonstrated that while glyphosate-based herbicides are effective for long-term control and management of above ground growth, these herbicides do not kill the below ground rhizome in most cases. This means that herbicide-based control can take several years or more.
However, new experimental data by agri-tech start-up Fontus Environmental from Thirsk, North Yorkshire indicates that a viable solution could soon be possible with their discovery of a novel herbicide. To ensure the validity of their findings they have partnered with Japanese knotweed expert, Dr Dan Jones from Advanced Invasives, who was involved in the original Swansea University research.
“The initial results are highly encouraging”, said Dr Jones. He stated that the novel herbicide was found to be effective at concentrations an order of magnitude lower than glyphosate, without any formulation.
He added: “Most importantly, we observed damage and disruption of below ground parts of the plant, in some cases some distance from the point of herbicide application”.
Ryland Cairns, director of Fontus Environmental said: “Invasives species like Japanese knotweed are both costly and challenging to manage. Currently they are controlled through the use of conventional herbicides such as glyphosate.
“What is innovative about our approach is that herbicide that we have developed targets a novel mechanism for herbicide action which can be used at far lower doses than glyphosate. This means that we are using an order of magnitude less herbicide to effectively control knotweed. This is very important to mitigate any potential negative impacts on the environment and human health.
“What we aim to achieve is more sustainable invasive plant management founded on evidence-based research.”
He continued: “We see knotweed as just the start. We aspire to tackle wider food security and biodiversity issues through selective targeting of agricultural pest and crop diseases.”
Lead image: Japanese Knotweed Novel Herbicide Trials (Image: Fontus Environmental)
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