Japanese knotweed, one of the most damagingly invasive plant in the UK, Europe and across the US, may soon be tackled with one of its few natural `predators`.
An application to release tiny sap-sucking non-native insects has been made the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Welsh Assembly Government.
Research by scientists at CABI has shown that a species of “jumping plant lice” - the psyllid Aphalara itadori - is the best candidate to control the scourge.
The fast-growing weed has causes major problems through rapid invasion of habitats to the exclusion of other plants, as well as eroding river banks and damaging buildings and other structures.
Eradication through conventional means - herbicides and physical removal of plants - is estimated to have cost £1.56bn in 2003, according to Defra.
The plant escaped into the countryside after being introduced as an ornamental plant in the 19th century. The government now is consulting the public about whether to use another non-native species to control it. The results are due in October.