Foreign earthworm damages turf

Concern that the changing climate is encouraging pest to increase in numbers.

A South American earthworm that glows in the dark and can damage turf is becoming increasingly prevalent at UK amenity sites. Turf disease scientist Dr Kate Entwistle has warned greenkeepers that, possibly because of climate change, sightings of Microscolex phosphoreus are rapidly building. The worm can damage golf courses because it produces castings on the turf surface. It grows to 2.5-3cm long and colonises small areas at high densities. Entwistle said: “Sightings of them in the UK were first recorded in 1913 but until the past six months very little has been documented about them. To my knowledge, they have not previously been recorded as colonising areas on golf courses.” News of the sightings comes as DEFRA, the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly launched a public consultation on the Invasive Non-Native Species Framework Strategy. Minister for biodiversity Barry Gardiner said: “It’s estimated that invasive non-native species cost the British economy approximately £2bn per year.” * Contact Entwistle at the Turf Disease Centre on 01256 880246 for further details.

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