Global warming is high on the political agenda as international scientific consensus agrees that increasing levels of man-made greenhouse gases are leading to global climate change. Consequences of climate change include rising temperatures, changing sea levels, and impacts on global weather.
In the UK, recent affects of global warming have included extreme weather conditions such as cyclones in the West Midlands and vast flooding throughout the summer. The climate is gradually altering, having a huge impact on UK businesses, whether it be booming vineyards in Devon or ruined harvests in Gloucester.
Spring is arriving sooner, summer is ending later and winters are far less harsh. This is having a marked effect on the UK's flora as the growing season becomes much longer. As plants thrive, the herbicide industry is changing. This, coupled with reductions in the herbicides available, in particular those with longer action, is creating an escalating problem throughout the UK.
Unfortunately, budgets do not necessarily coincide with changes in the macro environment. Traditionally, one spray per year of a contact residual followed by a contact only spray later in the season, coupled with a shorter growing season would have provided adequate control.
Local authorities are being faced with mounting pressure to use non-residual chemicals with many restricted to glyphosate only applications.
Two sprays of glyphosate per year will not provide the degree of control that local residents demand from their service providers. Local authorities must take heed of a changing environment and begin to make provision for 3 or even 4 sprays per year.
New European legislation is currently being formulated as part of the Thematic Strategy on Pesticides to minimise risks to health and the environment. There are options available to local authorities to minimise the environmental impact of their weed control activities. Low volume herbicide application systems are available to enable the application of concentrated herbicide directly to weeds with no wastage. By using walking operators, there are no carbon emissions from vehicles reducing the carbon foot print of the operation.
Responsible use of residual chemicals will also reduce the environmental impact of operations. By utilising a correct programme of weed control, early season weed flushes can be better managed and controlled. This technique helps weed management all year round and is a key element in the provision of an acceptable level of service while council budgets take time to catch up with demand.
Mark Phillips, Managing Director of Nomix Enviro, has first hand experience of the changes within the herbicide industry. Having managed the company during the past two decades Mark has endured ever increasing restrictions on active ingredients and applications.
"We have some of the most stringent laws on herbicide usage in the world." He says "The Thematic Strategy on pesticides will level the playing field across Europe. Unfortunately, it may spell the end of more active ingredients. What are perceived to be more harmful herbicides are to be substituted by, supposedly, less harmful alternatives wherever possible which may lead to the loss of more products and plant resistance issues.
Unfortunately, this is a political decision and based on perceived risk as opposed to actual risk. Application methods and training ensure herbicide treatments are undertaken very safely. As the world warms and plants thrive in the UK the loss of more actives could be very detrimental to weed control."
For temperate countries like the UK global warming spells longer periods warm enough to support plant growth and an increased need to control weeds. Those responsible for weed control must react with tailored herbicide packages not restricted to glyphosate, ensuring control is undertaken in a sustainable manner, and by modifying budgets to take into consideration that there are more weeds around for longer periods. Such measures will ensure that weed control is maintained at the quality level the general public have grown accustomed to whilst, on a much larger scale, the world finds measures to halt the dangerous increase in global temperatures.