Michelle was also able to show that small mutations in the chloroplast region of these plants gave us a clue to the region of origin. Catherine Pashley carried on this work with the intention of applying it to native Japanese plants to try and find out where the particular individuals in Europe had originated.
A collecting trip to Japan was arranged and plants collected from a wide geographical range. At this point they were contacted by Dick Shaw of CABI, who was contemplating starting a Biological Control program for Japanese Knotweed. At a stroke the Japanese Knotweed research program that had been carried out from pure academic interest acquired an important and unforeseen application. Two of the basic tenets of Biological Control are 1 understand the plants you are working with and 2 search for Biocontrol agents in the area where the plants evolved. Cytological, morphological and historical work previously carried out at Leicester had shown that the European Japanese Knotweed was probably introduced from Japan as a garden plant by PF von Siebold from his nursery in Leiden in the 1850s. The molecular tools to discover the origin of Japanese Knotweed were in place and the trip to Japan already arranged.
That Japanese Knotweed had been demonstrated to be a single clone and was thus lacking any population resistance was a bonus for a Biological Control Program. Like Britain Japan is not particularly large, but it is extremely long and straddles a number of degrees of latitude and has many different habitats. After an extensive search, our molecular research finally identified the origin of the European clone and collection of potential control agents was centred on this region.
|Contact: Dr. Bailey|
University of Leicester