Herbicides

Sally Drury examines where and how to use this key weapon in the never-ending battle against weeds.

Q: Do we still need herbicides?

A: Weeds are plants growing where they are not required. In some situations they may not look nice, but they can be even more of a nuisance.

In urban areas, weeds can lift pavements and damage other hard surfaces, causing trip hazards that might result in compensation claims. Weeds trap dirt and litter, which can attract vermin and present a fire hazard. Weeds lower an area's tone and arguably lead to vandalism, graffiti and antisocial behaviour.

In sports turf — be it football pitch or golf course — weeds can alter the way that balls bounce and roll. In these situations, the experience of the sport does not meet the expectations of the players — so they find other venues.

Within crops and plantings, weeds compete for nutrients and water. While companion planting can play an important part in biological control, weeds can provide shelter overwinter for pests and diseases that strike later at amenity plantings and production units.

Hand weeding is time consuming and expensive. Wire brushes and steaming can be used in some situations but never on turf. Herbicides, used in correct parameters, can provide a cost-effective solution to weed removal.

Q: Which herbicide should I use?

A: First, ensure that you need a herbicide. Consider the extent and implications of the problem. Study other options first and, if spraying is necessary, consider contractors where equipment and certified operatives are unavailable. If you have used herbicides in the past, consult records to determine the effects of previous treatments.

It is important to recognise the status of the situation — amenity, industrial, edible crop or ornamental. Only use products that are approved for the problem and situation.

Q: What are the other considerations?

A: It is mandatory to follow instructions on product labels. Don't forget that the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1994 require a sufficient health risk assessment before work commences.


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