The hazard of invasive plants

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is calling on members to eradicate any invasive plants and noxious weeds that are growing on their land including Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) and Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris).

UFU deputy president David Brown said: “Invasive plant species are harmful to the environment, pose a risk to human and animal health, and are costly for farmers. Allowing these plants to grow on farmland is a cross compliance breach. Landowners have a legal responsibility to control the spread of noxious weeds and invasive plants.

“If Giant Hogweed is well established it can take several years to eradicate. It is possible to clear areas of surface growth and remove plants from the root however, chemical control is the most effective treatment available. Spraying should ideally be carried out during the growing season which comes to an end now in August. Due to the hazardous nature of the plant and precautions required when spraying close to water courses, farmers are encouraged to employ contractors to remove the plant.

“Ragwort that has not been controlled early in the year can be pulled by hand or sprayed in mid-September through to November, when fields are closed off and livestock are not grazing. The plant is still palatable after spraying when dead or dying, so there is a risk of consumption after spraying if animals are close by,” said Mr Brown.

Controlling invasive plants is a continuous process that must be completed annually.

“We encourage farmers to do regular checks of their land, particularly in fields where livestock are grazing to ensure no new growth of invasive plants and noxious weeds. If members do notice new growth, they should attend to them while adhering to DAERA’s guidelines and any plants that have been removed by the roots must be disposed of correctly,” said the deputy president.

For further queries, farmers can contact the Non Native Invasive Species Team in the Northern Ireland Environment Agency on 028 9056 9558.