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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Satellites and insects

This morning's Western Mail reports the full extent of the war that is to be waged on Wales' knotweed problem. They say that a team at the University of Glamorgan are to use a satellite imaging system to identify the precise locations of the plant.

The paper confirms that a Japanese insect which is a natural predator of knotweed is due to be introduced to Wales next month. The scientists are also exploring the potential of a British fungus to destroy knotweed. In the Swansea area alone, one of the worst affected regions of the UK, it is thought to have a collective mass of 62,000 tonnes.

Professor Denis Murphy, a leading biotechnology expert based at the university, hopes the combination of initiatives will result in knotweed’s eradication.

He said he was alarmed by the danger it poses to Welsh homes

“We have found knotweed along the M4 and it’s literally next door to peoples’ back gardens.

“Japanese knotweed is among the most aggressive and invasive plants in the world. It can grow up to one metre within the space of just three weeks.

“Satellite imagery can more accurately monitor the spread of the plant and can pinpoint areas where it is likely to grow, enabling it to be treated more effectively. We conducted a pilot study at several sites in Wales, and hope that the techniques developed could lead to improved detection of the species worldwide.”

I have already expressed my unease at the use of this insect to tackle knotweed. These include how they will adjust to a different climate and the danger that they might attack other plant life. I think therefore that we need to watch this experiment very closely.
I already thought there was a way of treating Japanise Knotweed? You cut it down to around six inches from the ground, between leaf nodes and use the approprate weedkiller in the hollow stem?

As you are well aware, we do have a high unemployment rate in Wales, we are also wasting money hand over fist on such projects as Ieuan Air? Couldn't the money be spent on taking a few hundred people off the dole, buying strimmers and glyphosate? The chopped down knotweed could then be dried (it's nice'n' sunny out) and then fed into one of the biomass powerstations i.e. the one in Margam?
This foreign sap sucking insect that is about to be deployed - how about irradiating samples of it to the point where it is unable to reproduce but can still sap knotweed at a specific location in/near Swansea - that way this would be a real experiment instead of a release of an insect that could otherwise go AWOL by attacking indigenous flora.

What do I know? Well, just that I am a kid off Trowbridge council estate in Cardiff and thereafter a massive council estate on the Eastern edge of London and the 'happy' recipient of lots of 'free-school meals' that ended up with, inter alia, a masters in advanced biotechnology and drafted some very advanced biotech patent applications for some of the world's leading biotech companies. And oh, Irradiating insects to the point they are unable to reproduce has been done before. Just thought I would mention that.
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