Five plant species are defined as 'Injurious Weeds' under The Weeds Act of 1959 although a handful of otherwise notorious weeds are conspicuous by their absence.
The five 'Injurious Weeds' - common ragwort (with its highly toxic alkaloids and potential to poison equines), thistles (creeping and spear) and docks (curled and broad-leaved) - are proscribed due to their overwhelming competitive effect on other useful plant species in agricultural and amenity situations, and through their intrinsically rapid growth rates and prolific rates of reproduction. All are invasive in nature if not by definition. Not on the list of 'Injurious Weeds' are bracken, stinging nettle, Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam and giant hogweed.
Once established and allowed to grow, spread and multiply during late spring and early summer these weeds become difficult if not impossible to shift. However, if hit early in the year while still in a sluggish vegetative state, all five of these heavy-weight weeds are easily and quickly dispatched using lightweight and easy to use hand-held herbicide applicators.
Following an unusually early period of low temperature-induced dormancy from late November and through December 2010 these weeds have responded rapidly to much milder conditions in January 2011 and especially ragwort and spear thistle. Having survived one of the coldest Decembers on record essentially unscathed ragwort and spear thistle in particular are already moving, especially in the southern counties and require herbicide application targeted at the leaf rosettes now.
Herbicide applicators of choice are the Micron Weedstick and Micron Microwipe, light-weight, hand-carried applicators that deliver highly targeted doses of herbicide onto individual weed plants. Weedstick is tailor-made for use against ragwort while Microwipe is ideally suited to the control of docks.
Hitting weeds as early as possible in the year provides much quicker and complete control. Plants are more manageable and easily controlled due to their small size and rosette shape in a flat low-profile position and with a still sluggish growth rate. Application and control is that much simpler because plants stand out clearly in grass swards that have only just resumed growth.
Hit-on ragwort early with Weedstick
First in the line of fire is ragwort with measured spot-on shots of herbicide applied by the Weedstick when growth resumes in February or March depending on the region. Operators should familiarise themselves with rosette-stage ragwort plants because they look very different to plants in summer flowering condition. Leaves are less finely divided although the rosettes are easily spotted and selected, especially where grass is cropped by rabbits that graze around these highly poisonous plants.
The Weedstick is placed over the ragwort plant and the trigger depressed to deliver the required dose of herbicide right into the heart of the ragwort rosette, once for small plants and twice for larger plants. There is no risk of drift meaning the Weedstick offers advantages in precise spot application over knapsack sprayers, an attribute that is highly valued in sensitive areas like horse pasture and wet meadows, grass strips and verges with high value wild flowers, and anywhere near water. Best results are obtained when the ground is moist and ragwort plants are still simple rosettes of ground hugging leaves. Highly targeted spot application and minimal use of water with Weedstick ensures cost effective control
Wipe the dock slate clean
Direct surface to surface treatment of weeds using the Micron Microwipe is safe, simple and cost effective. The big broad leaves on dock plants present large, flat and smooth target surfaces which are ideal for weed wiping to deliver quick and lasting control. Microwipe provides the accuracy, economy and safety that is difficult to achieve with conventional application methods, such as boom sprayers and knapsack sprayers, especially in environmentally sensitive areas such as alongside water courses.
Operators simply walk through the dock infested area and wipe the Microwipe over target plants to deliver a lethal dose by direct contact of the herbicide-containing wick on the weed leaf surface. This delivers a lethal dose of herbicide onto and into the leaves but nowhere else, making the Microwipe ideal for the safe control of these 'outstanding' weeds which are typically found in clumps, groups or individually in grassland.
Docks should be treated promptly in spring and before flowering to avoid ripening and release of seed while the plant is being killed by the herbicide. Being small and lightweight Microwipe can be carried and used during routine operations such as dairy farmers moving their herds from the pasture to the milking parlour and back into the field.
Docks are commonly found alongside creeping thistle and spear thistle in pastures and meadows. Thistles show scattered and often clumped distributions just like docks and therefore present ideal targets for 'weed wiping' with the Microwipe or by using the equally well-targeted and cost effective 'shots' of herbicide delivered by the Weedstick.