Control bracken to support biodiversity

Successful bracken control helps to support biodiversity, maintain land for grazing and reduce the risk of livestock diseases, is the message for landowners at the start of the asulam application period.

Although providing landscape interest, bracken prevents other species such as heather from developing, by blocking light and restricting access to rain.

It provides a moist, warm habitat for sheep ticks, which can spread diseases to humans, wildlife and livestock. Bracken spores can also be carcinogenic, further increasing the risk to human health.

Simon Thorp, Coordinator of the Bracken Control Group & Consultant to The Heather Trust, said: “Because bracken is a native plant, the aim is to control it and not completely eradicate it. Therefore, it’s important to consider what level of control is required, whether that be to remove bracken from an area that would be better off without it, or just restrict its spread from existing bracken stands.

“Control measures include physical and chemical methods. Physical options include hand cutting or pulling, mechanical cutting or rolling, the use of livestock grazing and establishing competing species. To achieve some control impact, physical methods need to be carried out several times each year, for several years.

“For chemical control, the choice is between glyphosate and asulam. Asulam offers the unique benefits of selective control and approval for aerial application. These characteristics make it a very important part of bracken control, especially for large areas of bracken, or in places where access by ground-based machinery is difficult or impossible.”

Currently, Asulam is not registered for use in the UK but it was granted an Emergency Authorisation, which allows application from July 1. The final expiry date for disposal, storage and use of stocks is Oct 31; full details can be found on the Bracken Control website.

Following application to the fronds, asulam is translocated into the rhizomes, and reduces the number of dormant buds, which produce large divided leaves known as fronds, the following year. Asulam has no impact on the current fronds.

Mr Thorp added: “Bracken control by any means, including the use of asulam, should occur as part of a wider land management programme. “We are now approaching the peak time of year for bracken control, and this coincides with the start of the window for asulam application. We recommend that those considering bracken control, refer to the Bracken Control Group’s website for further information.”

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About The Author

John Swire - Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.