04 August 1997
Ragwort explosion threatens grazers

THE poisonous yellow weed ragwort is being left to spread unchecked along the south-east highways, putting grazing stock at risk, warns the National Farmers Union.

Widespread reports of an explosion in the plant population on central reservations and embankments has led the NFU to remind local councils and the Highways Agency of their duty to keep ragwort under control.

“Ragwort is an invasive, potentially lethal plant, which must be pulled during flowering or chemically treated early in the growing season. Once ingested it acts as a cumulative poison which eventually destroys the liver.

“Young stock in particular are at risk and the threat persists in hay and silage,” the NFU statement says.

Apart from the obvious threat to livestock, farmers are involved in substantial extra costs as they try to fight the weed invasion. The Weeds Act gives the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) the power to serve an enforcement notice on the occupier of the land who fails to control the weed.

“Ragwort can only be spread by seed, so if action is not taken before the seed sets this summer, were looking at a potentially explosive problem in both pasture and arable land,” the statement says.