Scottish farming and land management organisations are calling for Scottish Government to urgently approve the chemical Asulox for use to control Bracken, an invasive weed which poses a significant threat to biodiversity, drinking water quality, agriculture, animal welfare, and public health.
In a joint statement, NFU Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), and the Bracken Control Group (BCG) have said: “To counter the threats posed by bracken, a number of different control techniques are employed by land managers and specialist contractors.
“The herbicide Asulox is just one of these options, but for Scotland’s farmers and landowners, aerial application is often the only option due to the scale of the area covered by bracken and the rocky or hilly terrain that makes access by equipment to carry out other forms of control difficult or impossible.
“Control of bracken is a multi-stage process and effective control requires a repeat treatment for up to ten years. Failure to carry out repeat treatments can lead to bracken recovering quickly and the cost and effort associated with the primary treatment being wasted.
“Our organisations believe that in the longer-term, a more consistent and strategic approach should be taken for the control of bracken, including the development of an improved stewardship approach that introduces effective controls to manage and monitor the use of the various bracken control techniques, including herbicides.
“A greater emphasis would be placed on integrated pest management, with a view to reducing the use of herbicide except in cases where other control options are not possible.
“We would also like to express our disappointment that bracken control was removed from this year’s agri-environment scheme. This has not only increased the risks of bracken as set out above, but also reverses the benefits of public money already spent. We urge the Scottish Government to restore this option in future rounds of funding.
“However, we must turn to the short-term and while we acknowledge that the Emergency Authorisation (EA) process for Asulox is far from ideal, because of the lack of alternatives currently available and the tight timescales involved with the application being approved and aerial application permits issued, timely authorisation of Asulox is vital for the necessary control to be undertaken for this season.”