To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to eliminate Himalayan balsam; and what consideration they have given to introducing environmental schemes to reimburse landowners and farmers for its removal.
The UK has long recognised the threats posed by invasive non-native species. In 2008, we published a comprehensive Great Britain Non-native Species Strategy designed to tackle these threats, the first of its kind in Europe.
Himalayan balsam was first introduced into the UK in the 1830s and is now widespread here and throughout most of Europe. It spreads rapidly, forming dense thickets and outcompeting our native species. Defra is currently funding the research organisation CABI to develop and test a biocontrol agent in the form of a rust fungus that is designed to infect Himalayan balsam leaves and stem its growth. This pioneering research project, the first ever release of a fungus against a plant in Europe, is showing early promise.
Local action groups, with support from government, are actively involved in reducing and eradicating Himalayan balsam. For example, the New Forest Non-Native Plants Project has led 111 work parties this year involving 337 volunteers specifically to remove Himalayan balsam. Funds from a new EU RAPID LIFE project, totalling €1.1m, will also be available to local action groups to provide additional financial assistance. Natural England and the Environment Agency also undertake action nationally to remove Himalayan balsam where it is affecting protected sites, water quality or adds to the risk of flooding.
The Countryside Stewardship Scheme Higher Tier includes an option, for which farmers can apply, that provides funding for the management of invasive plant species including Himalayan balsam.