Despite appropriate management, keeping certain weeds such as dock in check often requires direct action. We develop new strategies for controlling weeds of this sort without the use of herbicides. Currently, we are testing whether dock can be controlled by a native root-boring insect.
Docks (Rumex spp.) are the main weeds in grassland and pasture areas. To date, successful biological control of docks has proven difficult, despite being crucial for organic farming in particular, where so far no alternative to the labour-intensive digging-out of the plants with a dock weeder has been widely implemented.
As part of a CTI project, and in partnership with CABI Delémont, the Unversity of Fribourg and Andermatt Biocontrol, we are testing whether docks can be controlled with a native root-boring clearwing species (Pyropteron chrysidiforme).
A near relative of this insect has already been successfully used in Australia to control docks. The larvae of this moth eat the roots and develop in them, thereby damaging the plants, which then ideally die off. In addition to trials examining possible methods of application and the effectiveness of this beneficial in the field, the host specificity of these insects is also being closely studied with a view to minimising the risk of undesirable side-effects.