The foreigners who are destroying the Wild Atlantic Way
One couple paid over €3,000 to eradicate the weed on a site before they would be granted planning permission to build.
An experiment in the UK is under way since 2010 and the results should be quantified this year. Researchers at the Central Agricultural Bioscience International have identified a psyllid bug, Aphalara Itadori, that only eats Japanese knotweed. This month, the post-flowering stage, is the best time to apply specialist herbicides.
Deep excavation and burial is more complex and requires professional attention.
In Ireland, the weed is particularly robust on river and canal banks, where it has caused damage to flood defences.
When it dies back in winter, river banks will erode and there is subsequent spoiling of fish spawning areas.
The problem with our watercourses is that the maintenance budgets fall between Inland Fisheries Ireland and the local authority. Ireland has adopted the EC (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011, which contains provisions to address the problem. Regulations 49 and 50 prohibit the introduction and dealing in certain species of non-native plants (35) and animals (41).
However, according to BioDiversity Ireland, the Government has not yet given effect to Regulation 50, which makes it an offence to import, buy, sell or breed all listed invasive plants and species. Regulation 50 specifies two vector materials as the most threatening, the first is blue mussel seed (a threat to oyster fishing) and the other is the contaminated soil of Japanese knotweed. In essence this allows local authorities to delay implementing an efficient eradication programme.
The longer the delay, the greater the national cost to deal with the damage to fisheries and floodplains.
Delays in eradication also arise where there is multi-agency involvement. A Special Area of Conservation could require input from the OPW, Waterways Ireland, Inland Fisheries, Coillte, EPA, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Fáilte Ireland, Teagasc, NRA, Bord na Mona and, of course, Environment Minister Alan Kelly TD.
We do not need another quango to deal with this, simply better institutional integration, raising public awareness and use of existing resources to address the problem, which is fast overtaking our wild Atlantic roadsides.
Deirdre Conroy is a conservation specialist