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.
Plants from the Hedychium genus are widely loved and cultivated as ornamentals but a few are threatening delicate ecosystems in Hawaii, New Zealand, the Macaronesian Archipelago (Azores, Madeira and the Canaries), Brazil, Australia and La Réunion. We are researching natural ways to manage the plants where they have become invasive, which involves returning to their original home range in the North eastern Himalayan foothills to try to find damaging and specific insects and/or pathogens which may prove suitable for release in the invaded range.
Cocoa is an important source of income across Southeast Asia. To maintain access to markets, and sustain farmers livelihoods and national GDP, all food safety and international SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) standards must be met. This project is building SPS capacity in the region, to ensure production and trade meets legislation on pesticide residues and other harmful substances. Best practices will be promoted throughout the value chain – from production to export – to improve quality.
One of the UK’s most invasive plants, the fairy fern or floating water fern causes problems for anglers and water managers. It forms thick mats on the water’s surface which can double in size in a few days, blocking out light and killing aquatic flora and fish. Fragmentation of the fronds makes control by mechanical means virtually impossible. This project involves researching and testing the use of a 2mm-long North American weevil (Stenopelmus rufinasus) as an agent to control the weed naturally.