Cookies on CABI

Like most websites we use cookies. This is to ensure that we give you the best experience possible.

Continuing to use www.cabi.org means you agree to our use of cookies. If you would like to, you can learn more about the cookies we use.

Search this site
Sign up for the CABI e-zine Newsletter
Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment

EU fights back with CABI against invasive Ragweed

EU fights back with CABI against invasive Ragweed

Known commonly as ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia now costs the European economy an estimated €4.5 billion a year, affecting the quality of life of millions of people. In the first collaborative research effort of its kind on the continent, thirty-three EU countries are banning together to fight back against ragweed, setting a new model for joint- scientific endeavor, and raising awareness about solutions for invasive species control.


The SMARTER COST-Action, initiated by Professor Heinz Müller-Schärer of University of Fribourg, Switzerland, and Dr Urs Schaffner of the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), will bring together interdisciplinary experts from the biosciences, health care, economics and ecology on a 4-year research mission: to find sustainable strategies to control this noxious aeroallergen.


As Prof Müller-Schärer notes, “the goal of this Action is to develop habitat-specific management recommendations against ragweed across Europe, setting a model system for the sustainable management of invasive alien plants of European-wide interest.”


Originally transported from North America, ragweed has become a flagship alien species in Europe, causing serious health issues for humans including asthma and seasonal allergic rhinitis. It is estimated that half of all asthma attacks are triggered by ragweed in the regions where it has spread. With climate change, the reach of ragweed is set to increase year on year, recently becoming prominent in the UK, Hungary and as far east as Japan.


Central to this mission will be innovative methods of biological control. Here, ecologists use ragweed’s natural enemies to stop the spread of the invasive weed, protecting habitats and ecosystems as well as regional agricultural production. With a proven track record controlling ragweed in Australia, biocontrol is the most promising approach for a sustainable, long-term solution.


“Controlling invasive plants with the help of their natural enemies is probably the most important sustainable management approach globally,” adds CABI’s Dr Urs Schaffner who chairs the COST Action working group on biocontrol. “And yet, it is still a surprisingly underestimated approach in Europe.”


While herbicides and mechanical controls like mowing are also currently applied to mitigate ragweed in the short term, this Action lays the ground work for sustainable biocontrol of ragweed, assessing all social, environmental and economic layers of this approach prior to meeting the standards for testing and release of new pests by European regulatory bodies.


The COST Action against ragweed will propose a step-by-step plan for loosening Ragweed’s grip on the continent and pave the way for future joint research for the common good. “An invasive alien species knows no borders,” comments CABI’s Dr Schaffner. “It is this kind of landmark collaboration that will strengthen linkages within the scientific community, to bring quality results for the people and ecosystems of Europe.”


ENDS


University of Fribourg:
Prof. Dr. Heinz Müller-Schärer
E-mail: heinz.mueller@unifr.ch
tel: + (41) (0) 26-300 88 35/50

CABI:
Urs Schaffner, Head of Ecosystems Management, CABI Switzerland
email: u.schaffner@cabi.org
tel: +41 (0)32 4214877

Julia Dennis, Communications Manager, CABI Switzerland
email: j.dennis@cabi.org
tel: +44 (0) 1491 829 468
For more information about CABI, visit www.cabi.org


Notes for editors:

About SMARTER COST Action The SMARTER project focuses on the control of ragweed, or ambrosia, but in addition pursues the larger goal of developing a mode of action for the mitigation of other invasive plants and to propose the transnational and interdisciplinary basis necessary for future control actions against harmful, invasive organisms. The SMARTER project will last 4 years; it consists of several working groups, allows for exchange of researchers and students, and organizes summer schools, workshops and stakeholder meetings, besides the various management meetings.

More information is available at: http://www.ragweed.eu/

Email: smarter@unifr.ch

 

Controlling the cabbage seedpod weevil in Canada

The cabbage seedpod weevil is a widely distributed pest of cruciferous crops in Europe and North America, causing substantial economic losses in canola crops in Canada. Current control measures still rely on applying broad-spectrum insecticides. We are collecting European distribution data for a parasitic wasp that is the weevil’s most effective... >>

Protecting leeks and onions from pests

The invasive leek moth poses a significant and immediate threat to producers of leeks, onions, garlic and chives in North America. The larvae mine the green tissues, reducing the marketability of crops. The pest’s distribution is expanding, with no signs of suppression by indigenous natural enemies. We are supporting an integrated pest management... >>

Biological control of brown marmorated stink bug

International trade is a common way for insects to ‘hitch-hike’ their way to new countries. The brown marmorated stink bug, originally from East Asia, has become a harmful invasive pest of many fruit and vegetable crops in North America and Europe. Biological control using Asian or European natural enemies may be an environmentally friendly,... >>

Controlling noxious Russian knapweed in the North America

Russian knapweed is one of several invasive plants of rangelands that arrived in North America as a seed contaminant in the 19th century, in this case from Asia. Biological control is often a good approach for these plants, but a nematode species introduced in the 1970s proved ineffective against Russian knapweed. Funded by a US and Canadian... >>

Partnership with DPR Korea's Ministry of Agriculture

Agricultural production in DPR Korea is low, resulting in food shortages and the need for international aid. Ensuring food security is a priority for the government. We have helped the newly-established Department of Plant Protection to sustainably improve agricultural production by optimizing its ability to develop and implement plant protection... >>

Insects as a source of protein

Global demand for animal-sourced foods is accelerating. Fishmeal and crops such as soya are key ingredients in animal feeds but are not ecologically or economically sustainable. Insect protein presents a viable alternative. The PROTEINSECT project is exploring fly larva (maggots), which are nutritious and can be mass produced at low cost, as... >>

Increasing rice production around the Mekong

Rice is the most important crop in southwestern China, Laos and Myanmar. Despite recent improvements, productivity is still low with millions of tons lost to pests, diseases and weeds. Intensive pesticide use has led to insecticide resistance, outbreaks of secondary pests and damage to farmers’ health. This project is introducing a biologically... >>