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Minister Wallace reminds landowners of their responsibility for the control of noxious weeds

Ms Mary Wallace TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, today reminded all landowners and users of land, to control the spread of noxious weeds. This follows a public awareness campaign run by her Department in January of this year, of their legal responsibility, under the Noxious Weeds Act.

The Minister said: "There has been a noticeable increase in the prevalence of noxious weeds in the countryside in the past two years, resulting in an increased level of complaints to my Department from members of the public. For this reason, I am appealing to local authorities, farmers and land developers and others to face up to their responsibilities by ensuring that they control weeds designated as noxious."

The principal weeds, which must be controlled under the Act, are ragwort, thistle, dock and wild oat.

Minister Wallace said there were very good reasons for declaring ragwort, thistle, dock and wild oat noxious in various orders made under the Noxious Weeds Act, from time to time. Ragwort is poisonous to animals when grazed or when it is consumed in hay or silage. The fact that ragwort is poisonous to animals makes it an animal welfare issue and financial loss from animal deaths and restricted growth also occurs. Other noxious weeds, such as thistle and dock in grassland and wild oat in cereals adversely affect crop yields, with consequent financial loss to the farmer. Furthermore, she said that where noxious weeds are not controlled, their seeds spread to adjoining lands, thereby causing further infestation, to the annoyance of neighbours.

She continued by saying: "The Department regards the control of noxious weeds as a must. To this end, a second campaign is being launched in May of this year so as to heighten public awareness of the need to control weeds designated as noxious. The January campaign was directed at livestock farmers whose lands needed to be sprayed with an appropriate herbicide to control the poisonous weed ragwort."

Minister Wallace said the Act provides for penalties for convicted offenders and added that the control of noxious weeds is now a cross-compliance requirement for Single Farm Payment under Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition. Failure to comply with this condition may result in a reduction in the Single Farm Payment.

Teagasc has updated its advisory leaflet on methods for the control of noxious weeds and the Minister urged farmers and landowners whose lands contain such weeds to seek professional advice from their local Teagasc advisor.

19 May 2006

NOTES FOR EDITORS

Powers for the control of noxious weeds are vested in the Minister for Agriculture and Food under the Noxious Weeds Act, 1936.

Ministerial Orders designating certain weeds noxious have been made from time to time, as the need arose.

List of weeds designated noxious is as follows:

  • Thistle, Ragwort and Dock - 1937 Order
  • Common Barbery - 1958 Order
  • Male Wild Hop Plant - 1965 Order
  • Wild Oat - 1973 Order

The reasons for designating them noxious are varied. Ragwort is poisonous to herbivores when grazed or consumed in hay or silage. Thistle and dock in grassland and wild oat in cereal crops reduce yields appreciably, which results in financial loss to producers. Also, their seeds are spread widely, resulting in clean lands becoming contaminated. Male wild hop plant cross-pollinates with cultivated varieties, thereby reducing the quality of the latter. Common barberry harbours black stem rust, which is a disease that attacks cultivated cereal crops.

Under the Act, it is an offence to allow noxious to proliferate. The owner, occupier, user or manager of lands on which these weeds are growing is liable, upon conviction, to a fine. In the case of fences and margins of public roads, the local authority charged with the maintenance of such roads is responsible under the Act.

Under the Single Payment Scheme, farmers are required to maintain land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition as part of Cross-Compliance. One of the conditions laid down is that appropriate measures must be adopted to minimise the spread of noxious weeds. Failure to comply with this condition may result in a reduction in Single Farm Payment.

Where herbicides are used, up to mid-March is the most appropriate period of year for controlling ragwort on pasture, silage and hay lands, so as to ensure weeds are eliminated before grazing or cutting for hay or silage commences. Hence the reason for the first noxious weeds control campaign having been launched in February.

This second campaign in May has been launched to remind landowners and users that ragwort can still be controlled on farmed grasslands by spraying, cutting or pulling, followed by removal and destruction of the weed. The reason for removal is that following spraying, cutting or pulling ragwort is still poisonous and becomes more palliative to animals.

Teagasc advisory leaflet on the control of noxious weeds has been updated and placed on their web address at www.teagasc.ie

Local Authorities, farmers, land developers etc whose lands contain noxious weeds should obtain professional advice on control methods from their local Teagasc advisor.

Date Released: 19 May 2006