Asulox ban fear for farmers

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YARROW Valley farmers are hoping European politicians will see sense over a chemical used to kill bracken.

The EU’s Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) will decide today on whether to ban Asulox (the market name for asulam) used to kill the aggressive fern.

The issue has come about because of fears the chemical’s residue in spinach is too high.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) of Scotland says it is barely used for spinach but that farmers rely on it to clear bracken and dockens.

NFU Scotland Selkirk branch chairman Alec Telfer said: “It is a vital tool in our armoury against bracken. Bracken creeps through all the time, it spreads like wildfire and it results in a loss of grazing. It can smother a hillside. It harbours ticks which cause real problems for sheep and cattle – they carry louping ill and tickborne fever and if a lamb is attacked by ticks you get ill thrift and high lamb mortality.

“There are implications for human health too – ticks carry Lyme disease and the spores from bracken are carcinogenic. There are a lot of threats there for the viability of the countryside.”

He has a contract with the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (SGRPID) office in Galashiels to eradicate the weed on areas of his farm, but fears being able to carry it out if the EU bans the chemical which targets bracken only.

Last year Mr Telfer of Broadmeadows sprayed 150-200 acres of bracken on the 1,500-acre farm, but says he has to spray again to keep the area bracken-free.

“We just have to hope the politicians see sense. It is very much a worry for us all.”

Craig Douglas farmer Billy Renwick clears about 50 to 60 acres a year on the 8,500 acres he farms.

He said: “Asulox is the only thing we have just now that can control bracken especially on the steep hillsides where we can’t do anything else with it. There is nothing else on the markets that kills it. There are other weed killers but they are not selective, they kill everything.

“It’s an ongoing problem. We have got to keep spraying bracken or it takes over. It’s so thick there is not very much can grow in below it.”

NFU Scotland is lobbying politicians up to the last minute, asking MEPS to get on-side colleagues from other member states who will be voting on the issue but whose countries are not necessarily affected by bracken. For unless SCoFCAH vote against it, asulam will be banned from September next year.