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Species Page

giant reed

Arundo donax
This information is part of a full datasheet available in the Crop Protection Compendium (CPC). Find out more information on how to access the CPC.
©CAB International. Published under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence.


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Host plants / species affected

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Prevention and control


Cultural control

Prescribed burning has been used to control A. donax, with a flame thrower being used as a cheap, alternative spot treatment to heat-girdle the stems at the base of the plant. Larger, mature, infestations can be burnt by broadcast burning with or without a prior pre-spray of herbicides to kill and desiccate the plants. This is generally not recommended as it does not kill the underground rhizomes and probably encourages A. donax germination over native riparian species. Burning presents containment risks and the possibility of damage to beneficial species, resulting from soil disturbances which may result from firebreak construction as well as from difficulties of promoting fire through patchily distributed stands. Cut material is often burnt on site because of the difficulties associated with collection and removal of all the chipping material.

Prescribed grazing is a managerial control method sometimes employed to control A. donax. Although A. donax is not very palatable to cattle, during the drier seasons they do browse young shoots, followed by upper parts of more mature plants (Wynd et al., 1948). In parts of California, USA, goats have been used quite effectively to control A. donax (Daar, 1983) although they tend to be less selective than sheep and the latter have been shown in feeding experiments to survive for extended periods on a diet of A. donax alone (Frattegglani-Bianchi, 1963). Although sheep may prove a more practical alternative to mowing in some cases, it is important to manage this so as to avoid soil compaction problems in overly damp areas. It has also been suggested that wild geese breeds might contribute to A. donax control efforts given their capacity to consume weed grasses and sedges.

Since A. donax in its invasive range appears to be unable to regenerate much, if at all, from wind or water-carried seeds or small propagules, its invasiveness could be controlled by not planting within the 50- or 100-year floodplain, and placing barrier screen systems along irrigation canals.

Mechanical control

Smaller infestations can be eradicated by manual methods, especially where there is a risk of damage to sensitive native plants and wildlife by other methods. This is successful with young plants less than 2 m in height, but care must be taken to remove all the rhizome material, and as such may be more effective in loose soils and after periods of rain when the substrate is more workable. Plants can also be removed using hand tools such as pick-axes and shovels, particularly in combination with the cutting of stems near the base with pruning shears or a chainsaw. Stems and roots should be removed or burned on site to avoid re-rooting and a chipper can be used to reduce the volume of cut material. For larger infestations on accessible terrain, heavier tools such as rotary brush-cutters, chainsaws and tractor mounted mowers may facilitate biomass reduction and should be followed either by rhizome removal or chemical treatment. These methods may be of limited use on inaccessible or sloping terrain, and may interfere with the re-establishment of native plants and animals (Hoshovsky, 1987). Mechanical control tends to be very difficult as even rhizomes buried 1-3 m deep readily resprout (Else, 1996) and removal of all such material is not practical, especially in sensitive sites where soil disturbance is disruptive or where soils are susceptible to compaction or erosion or when they are saturated.

Chemical Control

Due to the variable regulations around (de-)registration of pesticides, we are for the moment not including any specific chemical control recommendations. For further information, we recommend you visit the following resources: