Landowners/Managers and Farmers
Asulox is to be granted Authorisation
for use on bracken control for the 2017 season
Asulox Authorisation News is Later than Usual
CRD felt they could not carry out the Authorisation procedures in house this time round because of the number of Asulox Authorisations previously granted. They were very aware of the EU’s concerns over this, and in order to maintain credibility they presented the case to the ECP (this committee being due to sit 22nd November). Fortunately, these people passed judgement in favour of the Authorisation and the Minster has now signed the Authorisation allowing Asulox to be used for bracken control in 2017.
M D Air Services is now able to take clients’ instructions.
Highlighting the Needs for Bracken Control
- Pasture land lost to bracken is worth little. The increase in value resulting from bracken removal can exceed the cost of the work.
- Land with 100% bracken cover attracts 100% disallowance of BPS; Rural Payments Agency is well onto this!
- Management issues – bracken encroachment reduces the flexibility of being able to move stock to fresher/cleaner land and makes sheep gathering a far more difficult and time consuming operation than it need be.
- Increased available grazing = increased productivity and takes grazing pressure off the currently clear land.
Health – Clearance of Bracken will:-
- Reduce sheep tick populations and therefore the diseases they transmit to livestock (and humans of course).
- Remove the incidence of bracken poisoning (some stock will nibble enough to cause this).
- Reduce incidence of illness/death of stock from cancer e.g. Sarcomas of the jaw, stomach and liver cancers (bracken’s carcinogenicity is relevant to humans as well).
- Encourage stock to graze the cleared mountain pasture area instead of the valley floor pasture which will reduce their suffering from Foot Rot and Liver Fluke.
Bracken seeks to create a total monoculture “swamping out” all other species. Initially, it will appear to be living in harmony with existing grasses and flowers often providing shelter for species such as orchids and violets, but over time it tightens its grip eventually eliminating all else if left to its own devices and achieves this by a number of means:-
- Outcompeting all the other adjacent species for nutrient
- Deprives these other species of light by extensive frond cover
- Poisons the soil around each stem by secreting powerful toxins that kill off the other species.
Booking the Helicopter
Timeliness is essential (particularly for clients entering schemes which include aerial bracken spraying). Bookings are best placed late Autumn/late Winter to give us time to deal with many bodies and their procedures (very time consuming as you know from your own experiences!). A number of jobs fail to be carried out each year because clients were late in confirming requirement (enquiries made after beginning of June are very much at risk).
(NE Countryside Stewardship and NRW Glastir Advanced)
Clients must make it clear to their Project /Contract manager that aerial bracken spraying is the chosen methodology, and establish that this is sanctioned for the target area as shown on the scheme map and over what time scale. Should the client require extra and non grant aided bracken spraying, this must also be discussed at that time, and if sanctioned then also entered upon the same map.
Scheme clients are advised to consult with their manager as soon as possible; Autumn/Winter being the best time as there is less pressure upon all concerned at that point – a “smoother ride” is then more likely.
Grant aid for bracken control make these schemes more attractive. NE pay up to £120, and Glastir Advanced up to £175 per hectare towards the cost of aerial bracken spraying (approx. two thirds of cost)!
Efficacy of Aerial Bracken Spraying
Although Asulox is a fairly benign agro-chemical, we find that we generally achieve a 95-98% bracken kill rate (the chemical is also very target specific). Nevertheless, the bracken does tend to start making a comeback within 5 – 10 years; however, there are a number of measures clients can deploy to significantly increase the longevity of the clearance and these include:-
Prior to the year of the Spray Operation
- Destruction of the dead bracken brash that has built up over the years by burning if possible and safe, or by physical means (e.g. deployment of ‘jungle buster’ type machinery, or strimming, or heavy /mob stocking of the area before bringing stock off the hill for Winter; a week or so should be sufficient, particularly if good quality hay bale segments could be distributed to encourage foraging and trampling). Note:- burning is best option; this will return nutrients quickly to the soil, will destroy most of the harboured sheep ticks and will encourage grasses and other desirable species to re-establish more quickly. All the above methods of brash destruction need to be carried out between the October and February before the Summer of the spray operation itself.
Further Measures After Spraying
- Elimination of any bracken plants that might have survived the initial spraying as seen in the following year by either:-
- Rolling, cutting or whipping off with sticks whilst still in the crozier (Fiddle Head) stage and just as the fronds are beginning to unfurl or, alternatively, a further period of mob stocking could be implemented as stock go back up onto the hill; again with good quality hay bale sections scattered in the bracken area or:-
- Surviving bracken shoots could be left until they have reached full frond stage, then spot sprayed by knapsack or single shot applicator.
- Maintenance of an adequate stocking rate. Bracken only grows well on good soils and anecdotal evidence suggests that such ground would, once the grasses have fully re-established, benefit from stocking levels of around 0.5 livestock units per hectare and that anything much less than this would tend to encourage invasion by unwanted vegetation, particularly bracken.
- Hand fiddling of grass seed and a little high phosphate fertiliser (to stimulate root growth) would also be highly beneficial should there be people available (and willing) to undertake this somewhat arduous task! However, it should be noted that whilst the bracken spraying operation itself is not subject to Environment Impact Assessment rulings, application of seed/fertiliser in conjunction with the spraying may well be, and clients should then consult their local NE or NRW office to discuss possible EIA screening requirements should this extra work be contemplated.
Just to recap, timeliness of ordering is “of the essence”. This and strategy planning may be aided by the breathing space offered in these now long dark evenings! Our Permit application procedure is, as mentioned, a potential bottle neck, particularly when SSSIs/NNRs/SACs etc lie within 150 metres of target bracken.
I hope all this will be of help and I once again express our thanks to those who have supported us in the past, and a warm welcome to those who have not used our service before but hope to do so in 2017. We will continue to use our best endeavours for all of you.
Michael T Davies (Prop) December 2016