3:21pm Monday 4th March 2013
By Jim Jack
Moorland owners in Wharfedale are celebrating a temporary triumph in the battle to control bracken and restore heather.
An EU ban on using the only effective and safe bracken control herbicide, Asulam, came into force on January 1.
But now, following lobbying by the Bracken Control Group backed by the Moorland Association, the Government has agreed to grant a short reprieve.
That means the chemical can be bought and stored from May 20, and be applied on places like Ilkley Moor and Otley Chevin from July 1 until the end of the bracken growing season.
Moorland Association chairman, Robert Benson, said: “This gives us time to further galvanise efforts to safeguard Asulam’s long-term use in protecting vast tracts of precious moorland from massive bracken infestation.
“Without this safe, selective, government-approved herbicide, bracken would change the face of Britain’s countryside, devastating wildlife and destroying grouse moor management."
The decision by the Government’s Advisory Committee on Pesticides, which has been approved by Defra, also allows a further 'use-up' period for spraying, ending on October 31.
Bracken Control Group co-ordinator Simon Thorp, however, warned that the issue was far from being resolved.
He said: “On the one hand this is a victory, on the other we must wait to see if Brussels will re-register the herbicide, and that will not happen until 2016 at the earliest.
“We will have to re-apply for an emergency authorisation again next year and it will be illegal to store Asulam during 2013, before and after the agreed dates. The battle over bracken has only temporarily been won.”
The EU ban arose following concerns from spinach growers worried about the herbicide entering the food chain.
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