Landowners/Managers and Farmers
Asulox has once again been sanctioned
for use on bracken control in 2019
How Brexit will affect the permanent placement of Asulox back on the approved agro-chemical list we know not, but at least we are all OK for 2019.
Once again we are back into the long dark Winter evenings with little that can be done effectively outside by teatime, so may be best then to sit by the fire or in the office and plan out one’s farm management strategy for the forthcoming year.
Those with bracken problems will be able to work out how to integrate the work on this within the strategy, and see what agri-environment schemes might assist with funding. Even without this, bracken control is highly cost effective anyway as control of this pestilence results in:-
Liberation of good grazing land from bracken’s stranglehold: bracken only thrives on the better quality soils.
Avoidance of draconian BPS disallowances.
Better stock management:- i.e. now having areas of “cleaner” pasture on which to move stock around and gathering becomes much easier.
Improved stock health :- fewer sheep ticks, reduction in cancers and general bracken poisoning. Stock tend to graze these recovered drier areas instead of lower wet areas which reduces Liver Fluke and Foot Rot problems.
Improved Environment:- initial stage of harmonious co-existence between grasses and bracken is but brief, bracken seeks to become a monoculture and within very few years achieves just that. It destroys the previous biodiversity by competition for light and nutrients, also by poisoning the soil with powerful toxins (which by the way are highly carcinogenic). Bracken removal invariably results in reinstatement of biodiversity.
Increase in the overall value of the farm which improves the business balance sheet.
Booking the Helicopter
Most bracken infested pasture lies on land that is too steep or inaccessible for any land based treatment in practical terms; indeed, only sheep and hardy upland cattle are able to access much of it. The only cost effective means of dealing with a problem of this magnitude is by the helicopter application of Asulox but the service really must be booked in good time. Indeed timeliness is paramount: latecomers please BEWARE, trying to book in mid summer is rarely successful. Potential clients are best advised to indicate their bracken control requirements to us in the Autumn/early Winter prior to the intended spray year. This will give both ourselves and the regulatory bodies we have to consult with time to consider various environmental issues that may have to be addressed. How these are dealt with will determine whether or not CRD will issue the mandatory Aerial Spray Permit required for each and every job. This can be a lengthy process and failure due to an unexpected late hurdle could jeopardise a client’s whole scheme. (Glastir Advanced offers £175/ha & EN’s Countryside Stewardship £170/ha). Scheme participants must make clear to their scheme Contract Manager (CM) they wish to treat their bracken by the helicopter application of Asulox and gain approval and the year of work to be agreed. Further, clients wishing to spray (unfunded) areas outside of the scheme also need to clear this with their CM. All the bracken to be treated in that year must be entered on the same map so our Permit application shows the whole task (we need the clients’ maps as soon as they have determined their areas).
Regretfully, each year we have to disappoint a few clients because they have simply left it too late for us to pull things together in spite of our best efforts.
Efficacy of Asulox
Asulox is fairly target specific and our bracken kill rate is usually around 95/98% as seen in the following year. However, long term control is enhanced by adequate preparation and follow up work.
Strategic land planning and destruction of the dead bracken brash built up over the years.
The brash is best removed by burning as this returns nutrients to the soil, destroys hordes of sheep ticks, and encourages grasses and other desirable species to re establish more quickly.
Should burning not be feasible then either of the following would be reasonably successful:-
Deployment of a ‘Jungle Buster’ or similar where terrain will allow, or
A week or so of ‘mob stocking’ with hay bale segments scattered in the area to cause foraging and trampling.
All these prep works to be carried out from October and completed by end February.
Follow up Work
Most essential element is elimination of all surviving bracken plants emerging in the Spring following the spray year. This can be achieved by:-
Physical means, i.e. rolling/cutting/crushing/whipping off with sticks or another week or so of mob stocking (with adequate hay bale segments as before). This work to be carried out late May whilst bracken stems are in the brittle crozier (fiddlehead) stage.
Spot spraying individual bracken plants when the fronds are fully developed (mid July/August). This is easiest done with a Micronair type single shot applicator rather than a knapsack sprayer (survivor numbers usually low at this stage so reasonably doable).
Maintenance of an adequate stocking rate. Anecdotal evidence suggests the cleared areas, being possessed of good soil would, when grass fully recovered, be capable of supporting stocking rates of around 0.4/0.5 livestock units per hectare. This level would be likely to keep any bracken regrowth in check.
Application of appropriate species of grass seed and high phosphate compound fertiliser (to promote root growth); such small amounts as would be required could be ‘hand fiddled’ on. However, although Asulox application itself is not subject to Environment Impact Assessment rulings, this task may be regarded so. Clients pursuing this would be advised to consult their local NRW/NE office; clients’ argument should be that they are not trying to enhance productivity but just wish to get things back to how they were prior to the bracken infestation.
The case for bracken control is as strong as ever.
The most cost effective and least environmentally disruptive methodology available is the helicopter application of Asulox and is the only one capable of delivering a fast enough work rate to combat the growing bracken problem.
Timeliness in booking the service is essential as the procedures and consultations we have to field are now so very time consuming (especially if there are Registered Conservation Sites such as SSSIs etc. in or within 150 metres of bracken target areas).
I know I have written in similar words in previous Newsletters, but I feel they do bear repeating if only to try and raise the profile of this essential work. The bracken is not going to stand still for as long as global warming/climate change continues!
I now express my thanks to all of you who have used the service in the past, and welcome those who may do so in the future. Assuring you of our best endeavours.
Michael T Davies November 2018
M. D. AIR SERVICES in conjunction with Polo Aviation