The UK's first integrated pest-management guidance for amenity use has launched following a five-year scientific study.
Weeds: Best Practice Guidance Notes for Integrated & Non-chemical Amenity Hard Surface Weed Control follows the result of trials commissioned by Defra, run by East Malling Research (EMR) and hosted by Kent County Council that studied herbicide, non-herbicide and integrated approaches to weed removal.
The research confirmed that adopting an integrated approach will cost twice as much as herbicide-only, while a completely non-chemical approach costs eight times as much.
Launching the guidance, supported by the Amenity Forum, Grant Stark of the Chemicals Research Directorate said the Government is not telling people what to do but giving them information to make an informed choice.
Although there is no legal requirement to adopt an integrated approach, local authorities have to take "reasonable precautions to protect human health and the environment" and "minimise pesticide use in public spaces", said Stark.
"We want to work with you to make integrated the norm," he added. Following the guidance will demonstrate due diligence and is "the best chance" of meeting EU requirements to reduce pesticide use and avoid an outright ban, he said.
Contractors and council representatives at the launch voiced concern about the ability of local authorities to pay more, although some are already cutting chemicals where they can. Birmingham City Council specifies mechanical weeding and mulching for flower beds in tenders. Southwark and Medway are among councils involved in a hot foam trial using Weedingtech products.
EMR research leader Dr Michelle Fountain said the team suggests adopting the approach near sensitive areas such as boreholes, watercourses and playgrounds.