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24 Nov 2023 < Back

2023 Invasive Weed Conference Review

The concluding conference for 2023 has wrapped up, culminating in the International Invasive Weeds Conference at The University of Warwick. This year's series of conferences has proven to be exceptional, with the final event delivering insights and discussions for a diverse audience of professionals, practitioners, utility companies, and invasive non-native enthusiasts. This event served as a valuable platform for networking, knowledge sharing and collaboration, echoing one attendees sentiments who said, "By getting involved in these discussions, it gives me the armour to do my job the best way I can."

New ways to cull the threat

The first session delved into the future of invasive species management. Professor Max Wade explored the opportunities arising from the GB Non-Native Species Strategy, urging us to look beyond Japanese knotweed management. Following suit, William Weld (Certis Belchim), Ard Reijtenbagh (Soilwise) and Ed Lewis (Railscape) presented innovative ideas for managing invasive weeds, signalling promising developments on the horizon.

IIWC23 Audience   IIWC23 Presentation   IIWC23 - Umbellifer Quiz

Addressing immediate challenges

While the first session focused on upcoming techniques, this next session emphasised the importance of the present. Charles Hughes captivated the audience with his award-winning Himalayan Balsam eradication project, offering valuable insights into managing a notoriously challenging plant. Mark Buckingham (Bayer) and Dr. Tom Bennett (University of Leeds) further contributed with guidance on glyphosate and copper membrane management strategies.

Navigating controversy with insightful discussions

The panel debate, often a source of controversy, displayed a unified understanding this year, pretty astonishing when we talk about the polarising topic of glyphosate. Titled "Glyphosate-induced Dormancy – Myth or Fact", the debate explored the nuances of inducing dormancy and its implications for homeowners. The discussion raised pertinent questions which were fired to myself, Mark Fennell (Aecom), Nic Seal (Environet), and Brian Taylor (The Knotweed Company), with the chair Stephen Hodgson (PCA) asking, “if we are inducing dormancy and failing to kill the plant, are we failing our customers?” A curious thought which is prompting further research opportunities led by the PCA and its members.

A wealth of knowledge in the finale

The final session of the conference proved invaluable with Paul Beckett (Phlorum), Gavin Measures (Natural England) and Dr. Lisa Hammond (HSE) sharing fresh guidance, updates and legal insights and attendees recognised the last opportunity to absorb knowledge before departing.

Updates and takeaways

The PCA conferences have consistently served as a platform for learning, setting standards, building relationships and sharing knowledge. This year, attendees received physical copies of the updated "Code of Practice in Managing Japanese Knotweed" as well as guidance notes on Himalayan Balsam and Giant Hogweed. The programme underscored forward-thinking approaches and reinforced that the PCA and its members lead the way in tackling invasive weeds, whether that’s with adopting drones, AI technology, bacteria manipulation within the soil, or simply staying up to date with the latest legislative changes. “A rolling stone gathers no moss” and with a maturing invasive weeds industry, experts will continue to use these events to raise the bar and spread awareness of the magnitude invasive non-native weeds have within our environment.

Time to say goodbye

Reflecting on the final conference of 2023, it's impossible not to acknowledge the departure of Sue Uttridge and Stephen Hodgson from active duties within the Association. Sue's dedication and Stephen's pivotal role in advancing PCA invasive weed members, marks the end of an era. The final conference was a resounding success and a fitting tribute to their contributions.

In closing, it's not goodbye but rather a 'see you later' as we bid farewell to two stalwarts of the PCA. Sue Uttridge and Stephen Hodgson leave behind a legacy of excellence and their presence will definitely be missed.

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