I have been involved in the biological control of non-native weeds since I joined CABI in 2008. Since then I have worked on several weeds that are problematic in the UK, including Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), Rhododendron and Australian swamp stonecrop (Crassula helmsii).
I currently lead the Crassula biocontrol project, which has involved surveying for natural enemies in the native range, safety testing in quarantine laboratories and investigating the biology of natural enemies, both arthropods and fungal plant pathogens. I have also continued working on the research into the rust fungus which was released as a biocontrol agent of Himalayan balsam in 2014.
Scientists at our centre in Egham carry out scientific research, international development projects and microbial services. Over the years its work has supported hundreds of projects and reached thousands of farmers in countries across the world.
Crassula helmsii is an invasive water weed that dominates still or slow flowing water bodies. It’s spreading throughout the UK and has the potential to out-compete native flora and reduce oxygen levels by forming dense mats. Chemicals are not an option so CABI were commissioned by the UK government to investigate the possibility of controlling it using biological control. This includes lots of testing by our scientists to ensure that any potential agent is safe for release.
Himalayan balsam has rapidly become one of the UK’s most invasive weed species. A lack of natural enemies allows it to successfully compete with native plants for space, light, nutrients and pollinators, reducing biodiversity and contributing to erosion. Traditional control methods are inadequate. This project involves identifying an insect or plant pathogen that exclusively attacks Himalayan balsam, which can be released into the UK to control the plant while leaving indigenous species intact.
Start: 01/04/11 -End: 31/07/17