Scottish farming leaders yesterday welcomed a breakthrough which will allow landowners to use the main bracken control product, Asulam, this year.
The weedkiller was banned in 2011 by the European Union following concerns over its use on growing crops of spinach in Mediterranean countries.
But strenuous efforts by the Bracken Control Group to get it back into use in the UK were rewarded yesterday when the Chemical Regulations Directorate gave emergency authorisation for its use from the beginning of July this year.
Asulam manufacture licence holder UPL has stated its commitment to seeking full re- authorisation of the weedkiller but that is likely to take a number of years. Until that permission comes through, the plan is to go for emergency usage on a year-by-year basis.
Large areas of the hills of Scotland, England and Wales are covered in blankets of bracken and Asulam-based products have been the main method of controlling its spread for more than 20 years.
NFU Scotland welcomed the relaxation but advised landowners and those wishing to use a bracken control service this year to contact their aerial sprayers as soon as possible.
Union president Nigel Miller said: “Given the dramatic impact that large-scale stands of bracken have on human and animal health, coupled with reduced grazing and agricultural productivity, it was essential that we ensure land managers continue to have the necessary tools available to manage the huge problem that bracken presents.”
Scottish MEP Alyn Smith described the relaxation as a sensible step which would allow farmers and land managers to manage the spread of bracken while the efforts to seek the proper authorisation for this chemical proceeded.
He promised to monitor future developments carefully to ensure that Asulam received full authorisation.
Jim Hume, a Liberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland and a member of the scottish Parliament’s rural affairs committee, has welcomed the decision to allow the use of Asulam in the control of bracken and described the news as a “huge relief” for hill farmers across the region.
He said: “The control of bracken on hill farms across the south of Scotland is a big problem and today’s news that Asulam will be permitted in controlling this weed will come as a huge relief to our hill farmers.
“Bracken is a haven for ticks, which are harmful to both humans and stock.
“Bracken has had an increasing foothold in our hills across parts of the region in recent years and I welcome this useful step in controlling it.”