European directive and regulation trigger pioneering study of amenity weed control

Alternative methods of amenity weed control are to be probed by East Malling Research (EMR) as part of a pioneering study in Kent.

The Chemicals Regulation Directorate is funding the research into the use of herbicides compared to thermal, mechanical and combined methods for controlling weeds.

EMR is working with Kent Highway Services, the University of Hertfordshire and the Environment Agency on the project. It will employ trained contractors to carry out weed control.

The study will test three different management types - integrated, non-chemical and current practice - across Thanet neighbourhoods.

Kent County Council is now tendering for contractors to carry out the work as part of its extensive weed-killing contract. The deadline to apply for the work is 17 November.

EMR business development manager Neil Hipps explained that it was important to build up a body of evidence in the light of the EU Sustainable Use Directive and Regulation 91/414. Studies have been carried out in the Netherlands into integrated weed control as well as the public perception of the acceptable level of weeds.

Hipps shared the European findings on integrated methods, which he said cost no more in some cases, with delegates at the Amenity Forum conference in Nottingham on 4 November.

He noted that the detailed specification for weed control in Thanet is now being developed.

"This work will be done by real contractors in a real world situation," explained Hipps. "We will work with the contractors chosen as well as local people to find out what is acceptable to the public."

Work will also be carried out on the amount of herbicide lost from surfaces. "Clearly a factor will be the economics," added Hipps.

The approach follows the SWEEP concept developed in the Netherlands by Wageningen University. This approach aims to reduce herbicide run-off from pavements by using integrated control.

Northern Amenity Forum founding member Mark Dempsey said he would be keen to see the results but feared that they may not be relevant to local authorities that are based further north.

"Kent and Holland are 300km south of us and I suspect that their results will be a bit nullified because they don't have as much rainfall, which increases weed growth and affects run-off," he explained.


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