The grass carp for weed control
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The agricultural and recreational use of waterways is decreased by a too luxurous growth of various species of aquatic plants. Weed control has to be carried out at least once every year. The old-fashioned hand-cutting has nearly been abandoned, due to shortage of manpower and high costs. For the same reasons mechanical weed control methods are not very popular everywhere. Possibilities for chemical control of aquatic weeds in Dutch waterways are restricted.
The grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) could offer an inexpensive biological alternative. Experiments showed, that this fish is an efficient weedcontrol agent under Dutch circumstances. It is presumed, that its impact on various functions of the surface water is less (or at least less rigorous) than that of modern mechanical or chemical methods. Still it is felt, that this impact (“side-effects”) should be investigated thoroughly before introduction of this exotic species into our aquatic environment. For this reason a Working Party was formed within the framework of the Dutch Agricultural Research Council, section Weed Research.
Preliminary results indicate that the grass carp does not eradicate plant-species; in the experiments remnants of the original vegetation remained, so that recovery was possible. Furthermore the macrophytic diversity was only slightly decreased. These observations indicate that the grass carp shows very little selectivity in type of food and in space. From a biological point of view this is rather ideal for any weed control agent. Up till now no clear influence on the composition or quantity of the microflora was found.
The quantity of macrofauna and macrobenthos decreased in grass carp plots, for unknown reasons, but the rate of diversity does not differ from the rate of diversity in the control plots. Influence of grass carp stocking on growth, survical and breeding of endemic fishes will be studied in the coming years.