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Species Page

common reed

Phragmites australis
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

Main hosts

show all species affected
Beta vulgaris var. saccharifera (sugarbeet)
Brassica napus var. napus (rape)
Gossypium (cotton)
Helianthus annuus (sunflower)
Oryza sativa (rice)
Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane)
Solanum tuberosum (potato)
Triticum aestivum (wheat)
Zea mays (maize)

List of symptoms / signs

Prevention and control

Effective management programmes for Phragmites are usually based on burning, the use of plastic mulch, discing, chemical control, cutting, grazing, dredging, and draining or the manipulation of the water table and salinity (Marks et al., 1994).

Cultural Control

Cutting is a standard control measure, but tends to produce highly variable results. Nearly two years effective control was achieved in North Carolina marshes, USA, using a hand-held weed trimmer with a saw blade to clear vegetation to within 15 cm of the hydrosoil surface Kay (1995). However, in UK drainage channel systems, frequent winter mowing promoted growth of P. australis and adversely affected drainage efficiency (Milsom et al., 1994). Mowing every 2, 4 or 8 weeks achieved 93, 81 and 69% reduction at the end of the growing season, respectively, but there was strong re-growth in the following season (Derr, 2008). In Japan, Asaeda et al. (2006) showed cutting in June to be better than cutting in July. Smith (2005) showed that on a small scale, repeated manual breakage of stems below water could achieve long-term control.

Rolletschek et al. (2000) confirm that cutting and burning can be much more effective when followed by flooding. Cutting or other harvesting methods are often considered to be the least-damaging of available control methods on the environment (Ditlhogo et al., 1992), and there were no consistent deleterious effects on herbivorous arthropods of regular harvesting of reeds in Lake Neusiedler, Austria (Kampichler et al., 1994).

Autumn ploughing 25-27 cm deep for rhizome exposure and desiccation followed by reploughing in spring is effective against the common reed in Russian rice crops. Fragmented rhizomes soon die under a layer of water and this method is reported to be very effective if carried out every year (Agarkov, 1980).

In Dutch reed stands, Mook and Toorn (1982) found that damage to just-emerging shoots in April or early May by burning (wet- and dry-burned plots) or early ground-frost (dry-burned and dry-mown plots), retarded growth of leaves and shoots for about 1-2 weeks, but the relative growth rate and maximal levels reached were not significantly lower than in undamaged areas. Heavy damage by late ground-frost (dry-burned plot) or by the stem-boring larvae of Archanara geminipuncta (wet-undisturbed plot) lowered the maximal shoot biomass by about 25-35%. Heavy infestation by the rhizome-boring larvae of Rhizedra lutosa (dry-undisturbed and dry-mown plots during later years) gave losses in yield of about 45-60%.

Winter harvesting and burning influence the geometry (stem diameter and relative wall thickness) and mechanical properties (modulus of elasticity and breaking stress) of reed culms (Ostendorp, 1995), weakening the plants and making them more susceptible to other control measures.

Biological Control

Schwarzländer and Häfliger (2000) record 28 insect herbivore species feeding on P. australis in North America, and more than 140 insect species in Europe and Asia Minor. For at least 55 of these, P. australis is the only known host plant. A range of shoot flies, gall midges (Cecidomyiidae), and moths cause damage by mining in stems or rhizomes and are considered to have some ‘minor potential’ as biocontrol organisms but none have been fully checked and tested. Häfliger et al. (2006a,b) consider Archanara geminipuncta to be the most promising organism to be studied so far for control of invasive populations in North America, but there have been no reports of its implementation. Some attention has been paid to the possibilities of inundative control of Phragmites reeds using insects in Australia, although the approach does not appear to have been widely used there (Wapshere, 1990).

Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) will eat the young shoots of developing Phragmites reeds, but they are not generally a preferred species (Nikanorov and Polyakova, 1980). However, in fallow rice paddies in Japan, Tsuchiya (1979) reported that grass carp weighing 0.5-2 kg grazed areas of 4-30 m² in fallow paddies, controlling P. australis, as well as Typha latifolia and Isachne globosa.

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: