Photo- Peter Tóth
A potential answer to the threat of Ambrosia artemisiifolia, known commonly as Ragweed, could become the first successful case of biological control over an invasive species ever in Europe, a new study announces. The surprising discovery of its natural enemy, the Ragweed leaf beetle (Ophraella communa), in areas south of the Alps shows promising results for eradicating the noxious weed, which now costs the EU an estimated €4.5 billion a year, and affects the quality of life of millions of people. Already regarded as the most successful biocontrol agent in China, this development could now bring relief to allergy sufferers in the EU.
The impact of the beetle has been swift and severe. Of 150 sites surveyed in this study, the beetle was already present in 80 percent of these sites. Subsequent monitoring over a 3-month period revealed that up to 100 percent of ragweed was attacked and destroyed. Damage-levels were high enough to completely eliminate further growth, thereby effectively eradicating the weed. This could pave the way for the EU to encourage mass rearing and mass release of the beetle, as is already common practice in China, but not without comprehensive investigation of the benefits, and possible risks, by a special EU-wide scientific task force.
The SMARTER COST Action against Ragweed, a landmark collaboration of researchers across disciplines spanning 30 countries, is continuing to study this and other potential solutions to ragweed, led by Professor Heinz Müller-Schärer of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, and Dr Urs Schaffner of CABI. The goal is to develop habitat-specific management recommendations against ragweed across Europe, setting a model for the sustainable management of all invasive alien plants of European-wide interest.
Read more about O.communa in this feature story by Environment Industry Magazine.
Download the full press release here.