Moorland owners in the Ribble Valley and across the country are heralding a temporary triumph following furore over a European Union ban on the only herbicide to effectively control bracken.
The Europe-wide ruling that came into force on January 1st has been given a short UK reprieve, following intensive campaigning by The Bracken Control Group, backed by the Moorland Association.
Following new advice from the Government’s Advisory Committee on Pesticides, the herbicide “Asulam” can be bought and stored from May 20th and vital spraying of Asulam can go-ahead from July 1st until the end of the bracken-growing season. The decision, rubber stamped by Defra, allows a further use-up period ending on October 31st.
As we reported previously, the ban was brought in after concerns were raised about the use of Asulam by spinach growers in parts of mainland Europe, even though the Moorland Association pointed out it has been used for decades in the UK to control bracken with no adverse effects.
Commenting on the reprieve, Moorland Association chairman Robert Benson said his members were delighted to have a season’s breathing space.
He added: “It gives us time to further galvanise efforts to safeguard Asulam’s long-term use in protecting vast tracts of precious moorland from massive bracken infestation.
“Without this safe, selective, Government-approved herbicide, bracken would change the face of Britain’s countryside, devastating wildlife and destroying grouse moor management. Around £100m. a year would be lost to the UK rural economy.
“Three-quarters of the world’s heather moorland is found in the UK with 66,000 acres in Lancashire. Without Asulam, 50% would already be gone.”
Simon Thorp, Bracken Control Group co-ordinator warned the long-term future for Asulam was still in the balance.
He said: “On the one hand this is a victory, on the other we must wait to see if Brussels will re-register the herbicide and that will not happen until 2016 at the earliest.
“We will have to re-apply for an emergency authorisation again next year and it will be illegal to store asulam during 2013, before and after the agreed dates. The battle over bracken has only temporarily been won.”
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Weather for Clitheroe
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 7 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: West