Highways Agency tackles poison weeds
The Highways Agency is looking to combat the growth of ragwort along England’s motorways.
United Kingdom – The Highways Agency is looking for ways to stem the growth of a weed that poisons livestock across the country.
Ragwort, identifiable by its bright yellow flowers, is a common sight by the verges of England’s motorways and trunk roads.
Animals such as donkeys, horses, sheep and cattle are at risk of contracting plant poisoning from the weed, as it throws up to 150,000 seeds into neighbouring fields every summer.
These seeds can lie dormant in soil for up to 20 years, making it difficult to predict where the weed will grow.
"The Highways Agency takes this perennial problem very seriously. We are continually looking at new, environmentally friendly techniques that can be used," said Tony Sangwine, principal environmental advisor for the Agency.
"The traditional method is to use herbicide as a spot treatment when the plant is at the rosette stage, but it is often necessary to hand-pull the plant when it is in flower; cutting is avoided as it encourages thicker growth the following year.
"The seeds can be carried for miles in the wind and so as part of our work to control the problem, we encourage landowners to remove ragwort from their land to try to prevent reinvasion."
Helen Owens, senior executive of welfare at the British Horse Society (BHS), welcomes the Agency’s efforts to control the problem.
"The BHS is delighted that the Highways Agency is taking the problem of ragwort poisoning so seriously and its support in the society’s campaign to control the spread of the weed is most welcome," she commented.