The future for bracken control in Scotland and the rest of the UK is becoming clearer following a meeting of key stakeholders in Manchester last week.
" ... it is essential that we ensure land managers continue to have the necessary tools available to manage the huge problem that bracken presents."
The Bracken Control Group (BCG), which includes NFU Scotland, is seeking to ensure that the essential bracken control herbicide, Asulam (marketed as Asulox), remains available in the UK beyond 2012.
In 2011, Asulam was banned across the EU, principally to do with concerns over its use on spinach. The herbicide is currently in a "use-up period", which expires on 31st December 2012 - by which time all unused stock must have been returned to the manufacturer or destroyed by an authorised company.
At last week's meeting of the BCG, United Phosphorus Limited - the licence holder for the main product Asulox - restated its commitment to investing in further trials and data collection. This is necessary to ensure that it is in a position to apply for a new EU-wide authorisation. However, this is a very lengthy process, and it is vital to many Scottish hill farmers that there is a safe and practical way to control bracken in the meantime.
In light of the fact that Asulam is currently the only safe and effective large-scale bracken control product, the BCG members agreed that it was essential that they submit an application for temporary National Emergency Authorisation (NEA) for it. A representative of the Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) was present to explain to the BCG the requirements and stringent conditions of any such authorisation.
NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said:
"The members of the Bracken Control Group have committed to working together to submit the strongest possible case for a National Emergency Authorisation for the 2013 season.
“That is hugely important for Scottish hill farmers, particularly in light of recent research by the James Hutton Institute, which has indicated that without Asulam, the area covered by bracken could be 50 percent larger than it currently is.
“Given the dramatic impact that large-scale stands of bracken have on human and animal health coupled with reduced grazing and agricultural productivity, it is essential that we ensure land managers continue to have the necessary tools available to manage the huge problem that bracken presents."
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