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Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment

Biocontrol breakthrough for Ragweed in the EU

Biocontrol breakthrough for Ragweed in the EU

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.

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... >>

Improving the livelihoods of smallholder maize farmers around the Mekong

After rice, maize is the most important crop in the Mekong Delta. Insects including the Asian corn borer are a major threat to production. Fear of crop losses, together with a lack of alternative measures, can result in overuse of pesticides – posing health risks to farmers, consumers and the agro-ecosystem. This project will establish local... >>

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... >>