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Water Hyacinth is Used for Health Improvements in Africa

In research that will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) in Chicago (July 7-11, 2007), scientists implemented a successful bioeradication program of an invasive water weed in Africas Lake Victoria.

Two insect biocontrol species, weevils in the genus Neochetina, were used, along with mechanical removal, to control the highly invasive water hyacinth, which has also plagued waterways in the southern United States.

This method of water hyacinth biocontrol, originally researched and implemented in Florida in the 1970s, eliminates or drastically reduces the use of pesticides.

In the Lake Victoria region, water hyacinth threatened livelihoods of local communities by reducing fish populations, fouling hydroelectric power turbines, and providing habitats for malaria and schistosomiasis vectors. Similar biocontrol programs have been successfully applied throughout the tropics and subtropics.

Water hyacinth, Eichhornia crassipes, is one of the most invasive water weeds in the world. A native of South America, it was spread throughout the tropics and subtropics in the last century, mostly by humans.

While the plant can potentially be used for sewage treatment and biofuel production, it can also cause severe environmental and socioeconomic damage.

Dr. James Ogwang, a biocontrol entomologist with the Uganda National Agricultural Research Organization, and his colleagues, implemented a successful program that rid Lake Victoria of the weed.

The control strategy integrated mechanical removal and use of two insects that are natural enemies of the weed--weevils in the genus Neochetina--N. bruchi and N. eichhorniae, both natives of South America.

Dr. Ogwangs work on the Lake Victoria water hyacinth eradication program was recently featured on National Geographics television series, Strange Days on Planet Earth.
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