Weed control - a grave issue ...
Many local authority policy makers appear to have taken their eye of the weed control ball and could be in danger of being overrun by weeds in their communities, warns leading independent weed control consultant, Richard Minton.
Due to budgetary constraints some local authorities are having to concentrate their weed control resources on a reactive approach, rather than having in place a proactive management programme. Others have programmes in place but do not have the necessary skills to properly implement and audit them to ensure the quality of service, delivery and value for money are achieved.
Either way this approach is false economy. I know contract managers are being told to cut costs and increase revenue whilst, at the same time effectively addressing increasing problems - 'it isn't possible to do all three'.
Reactive and complaint based systems may sound effective and keep individual complainants happy, but policy makers need to understand this does not tackle the majority of weed infestation and the effects this can have to any given area. Damage to structures, encouraging litter and vermin, blocked drains and gullies, are inevitable results of poor weed control and lead to increased costs well above having the job done properly in the first place.
The recent European Thematic Strategy into the use of pesticides has highlighted the many areas of use in the public sector, not only Local Authorities and utility companies, with all the hard surfaces, shrub beds, grass areas etc., but also the many sports facilities, golf courses, football clubs etc., who rely on pesticides to maintain quality playing surfaces weed, pest and disease free. Pesticides are a management tool and should only be used after all other practices have been considered.
The strict registration processes adopted before a pesticide can be considered for use ensure that, when used correctly, the benefits outweigh the environmental concerns.
Weed control these days is governed by very strict legislation. The satutory "code of practice for using of plant protection products" has meant there is responsibility on all those making the decisions, in relation to pesticide application, to ensure they are qualified to do so. From those writing tender specifications, those issuing them, those advising and those undertaking the work there are responsibilities to ensure all legal and Health & Safety requirements are followed to the letter. We must be able to demonstrate we can adopt 'best practice' at all times when using pesticides, ensuring all legislation is adhered to and thus avoiding any potential damage or risk of contamination.
Local authorities, sports clubs, golf courses, industrial areas all need to ensure they remain within the law and identify areas to reduce pesticide output.
• Weed control on all hard surfaces - pavements, car parks etc.
• Weed control on shrub beds and around obstacles
• Selective weed control to all grass areas - sports pitches, lawns, roadside verges
• Aquatic weed control - lakes, pools, rivers, canals etc.
• Moss and algae control - hard surfaces and grass areas
• Control of invasive weeds - Japanese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed, Ragwort etc.
• Disease control (fungicide application) - fine turf areas (bowling greens, cricket squares, golf greens etc)
• Pest control - leatherjackets, worms
• Grass growth control - roadside verges, difficult to mow areas, high wear areas
All these services can be written into a specification, all are governed by the strict legislation mentioned earlier, all require to be undertaken by qualified, certificated operators and all need specialist equipment designed for accurate application, helping to meet the standards laid down in the recent EU Directives.
The first step is to take expert advice. There have been so many changes over the last ten years in legislation, chemical choice and application technology. It is important that decisions relating to any pesticide application are taken by someone qualified to do so. Writing specifications that are manageable and achievable are paramount to any weed control programme being successful. Tender documents need to clearly define what level of control is expected and contractors need to be able to demonstrate how this will be achieved.
Training is available; The BASIS POWER (Protection of Water, the Environment and Recommendations) Certificate is designed to help those who have responsibility for spraying operations in both agriculture and amenity, but do not actually apply pesticides themselves. Alternatively, working with a member of the BASIS Professional Register will ensure full compliance.
Secondly, appointing the right contractor is now a lot easier following the launch of the 'Amenity Assured' accreditation scheme. The scheme is registered and verified by the combined resources of BASIS, NAAC and NPTC, and is endorsed by other leading bodies, including the Pesticide Safety Directorate, Environment Agency, Amenity Forum, Local Government Association and Crop Protection Association. By using an 'Amenity Assured' contractor customers will know they have been audited to ensure they comply with the very strict legislation attached to pesticide application and will adopt best practice at all times.
Thirdly, audit the work undertaken. Before and after photographs throughout the city, town, borough or sports facility will help, while again taking expert advice, identifying where work has been undertaken and gaining a clear understanding of the expected levels of weed control achievable with the practices available today.
Taking professional advice and using 'Amenity Assured' contractors will ensure full legal compliance, deliver value for money and guarantee 'best practice' is adopted at all times. This is the only way we will meet EU Directives to reduce pesticide usage and win the battle against weeds.
About the author: Richard Minton offers independent professional advice and solutions for the local authority, amenity and sports turf industry. Richard Minton Associates has been established to provide a professional consultancy for all weed control and related activities and to guide clients through the ever increasing legislation, both H&S and environmental, attached to the use of pesticides. email: richard@richardminton