Writtle College wins a £100,000 Department of Trade and Industry research grant to fund a project to improve the eradication techniques for Japanese Knotweed, a highly damaging invasive weed plant
The research project, which is underway at the School of Horticulture at Writtle College, is taking place in collaboration with the Suffolk based company Thurlow Countryside Management, a leader in the market of invasive plant eradication and control. The work is funded by the DTI through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership grant to the tune of £100,000. The project is lead by Dr Pascaline Le Lay and Dr Clive Ireland, who will be using the scientific facilities at Writtle College, including a brand new research glasshouse, to carry out the research necessary to improve methods for the sustainable control of the species. As Dr Le Lay says "It appears to be more and more important to increase public awareness of the issue of Japanese Knotweed and to ensure its eradication."
Japanese Knotweed was first introduced to the UK as an attractive ornamental shrub during the 1800's and became widely grown in Victorian gardens. It proliferates by the production of an extensive network of underground stems or rhizomes. These rhizomes can remain dormant for long periods but by processes that remain unclear can be triggered to produce whole new plants, even from pieces as small as one gram. New plants grow extremely vigorously, rapidly crowding out neighbouring plants and spreading out at a rapid rate. Furthermore, away from its native lands Japanese Knotweed has no significant natural predators to keep it in check. Since escaping from gardens, Japanese Knotweed has spread alarmingly across the country over the last 50 years and is now a familiar site alongside waterways, roads, and across brown-field sites including the main 2012 Olympic Games site in East London. Its eradication is important because of its capability to displace native species, and its ability to grow through tarmac, brick walls and inside pipes, causing extensive damage to property and roads.