Is parthenium weed allergy problem worse than that of annual ragweed?

A small clump of field-growing parthenium weed plants approximately 80 days old
Photo Credit: S. Adkins

By Asad Shabbir

Parthenium weed and annual ragweed are closely related members of the Asteraceae, known for their high allergenicity. The detrimental effects on human health of the more temperate annual ragweed are very well known. However, those of the more tropical parthenium weed are less well known and in fact much more severe, affecting many tens of millions of people each year.

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Giving garlic mustard the biocontrol treatment


Garlic mustard leaves with typical feeding marks of Ceutorhynchus scrobicollis

In eastern North America a species of weed has become an aggressive invader. Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is one of the most rapidly increasing woodland invasive plant species, spreading across northeastern and midwestern USA and southeastern Canada at a rate of nearly 2,500 square miles per year.

The plant was most likely introduced to North America in the 19th century, taken from its native habitat of Eurasia by settlers for medicinal and culinary use. Although the crushed leaves and seeds of garlic mustard smell like cultivated garlic and have been used as flavouring in cooking for centuries, the plant actually belongs to the cabbage family.

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Recent developments in the world of biofuels

Water hyacinth mat on river Opinions on the use of crops for biofuel and bioenergy continue to be polarized – are they a ‘good thing’ or not? When are they a ‘good thing’? Who benefits?

How do you measure the impacts and their interactions at a local, national and international level on food security, land resources, water, greenhouse gas emissions, energy security, poverty, social development, sustainability…and try to remain impartial and objective?

The Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Analytical Framework developed by FAO aims to address these issues by providing an analytical framework and set of tools which can be used to measure these impacts. Using a step-by-step methodology, the goal is to help policymakers make informed decisions on whether development of bioenergy is a viable option for their country and identify suitable policies that will maximize benefits and minimize risks.

Three separate reports describe the implementation of the framework in Peru, Tanzania and Thailand, with suggestions for suitable options for each country.

Another source of information is Recent developments in the world of biofuels, a critical analysis by CABI scientists of the latest research on the potential and realities of growing and processing jatropha, algae and biomass for biofuels or bioenergy – see Biofuels Information Exchange.

Land use and poverty alleviation issues in Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, India, China and Brazil are discussed as well as research into using problematic invasive aquatic weeds (water hyacinth – pictured above – is a favourite) for bioenergy. The pros and cons of algal biofuels, and the latest technology for concentrating biomass energy into a more energy-dense form which makes transport to a processing plant more feasible are discussed, and more…

BIE is an impartial site for exchanging information on biofuels research – the exchange on pests of jatropha has generated the longest running discussion over the last 2 years – and the site provides open access to documents on biofuels, including the peer-reviewed Land Use Change: Science and Policy Review (copublished with Hart Energy Consulting) and abstracts of the latest research on biofuels from the CAB Abstracts database.

For a comprehensive resource of published information on research into man’s impact on the environment see CABI’s Environmental Impact which has a special section on biofuels research information – abstracts, books, book chapters, reports, reviews.