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Abstract

Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn) is an invasive native weed in the UK causing problems in upland agriculture and in land of amenity and conservation value; it may represent a risk to human health. Existing control methods such as cutting or herbicide use are subject to practical, economic or environmental constraints in many areas of the UK. Classical biological control of bracken would involve the introduction of specialist bracken-feeding herbivores from other parts of the world. Classical biological weed control has a reasonable record of success in other parts of the world and an exemplary safety record, but remains untried in the UK. The typical development of a classical weed biocontrol programme is presented using the UK bracken programme as an example. Finally the current position of this classical biocontrol programme is reviewed with an assessment of the prospects for the future. With appropriate funding, a full field release of at least one species of South African bracken-feeding moth should be achieved during the mid-1990s.