Ragwort is one of a number of noxious weeds, such as thistles, docks (included in 1937), wild oats (1973), common barberry (1958) and the male wild hop plant (1965), listed in the Noxious Weeds Act which dates back to 1936.
Reports indicate the presence of ragwort has increased in recent years, with this very apparent on certain land parcels.
Where ragwort has been a problem in the previous year and no practices have taken place to address it, then it will almost certainly be an issue this year.
Responsibility for controlling ragwort in fields lies with the landowner or the manager of the lands in which the plant is present, while the National Roads Authority lists relevant local authorities as being responsible for controlling plants in areas such as road verges, landscaped areas or public amenities.
Spraying in the rosette stage is recommended as being the most effective chemical control option and the Department of Agriculture’s fact sheet points to spring and autumn presenting the best window of control.
Grazing with sheep will also help suppress its growth
Ploughing, followed by an arable rotation or a programme of spraying if direct seeding, works well, while, if pulling by hand or cutting, it is important that plants are collected and destroyed.
Grazing with sheep will also help suppress its growth.
Steps should also be taken to improve grassland management so that it will compete aggressively with ragwort plants.
Remember, the plant is highly poisonous and toxic to cattle, horses, deer, goats, pigs and chickens, while sheep are less affected.
Cattle generally do not graze the plant in its vegetative state (unless very tight on grass), but, once cut, the plant releases sugars which make it much more attractive to grazing animals.
It also presents a large risk where it is contained in hay or silage, therefore control options must take this into account.
Now is the perfect time of the year to plan out a treatment programme.
Wild bird cover
There is more activity at present in farmers beginning to sow wild bird cover as part of the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environmental Scheme (GLAS). There is still about a month until the deadline to sow it falls on Monday 31 May.
Farmers have two options – sow a one-year or two-year mix.
The one-year mix must contain a cereal (oats, barley, wheat or triticale) and at least one species from the following: oilseed rape, linseed and mustard.
The two-year mix must contain a cereal (oats, barley, wheat or triticale) and kale.