Farmers urged to destroy ‘noxious’ weeds…for the betterment of all

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has issued a reminder to farmers and landowners of the need to destroy noxious weeds across Northern Ireland.

Spear thistle, creeping thistle, ragwort, wild oats, curled leafed docks and broad-leafed docks all come under the category of noxious weeds – under the Noxious Weeds (Northern Ireland) Order 1977.

The Department said: “DAERA has powers under the order to insist that these weeds are destroyed under notice and failure to comply with such a requirement could result in prosecution and/or Basic Payment penalty.”

Owners and occupiers of land are also reminded that ragwort (also called ragweed or benweed) is poisonous and may cause illness and even death to livestock.

Farmers are urged to destroy such weeds before they get the chance to flower, seed and spread.

DAERA has issued an information guide giving facts on the control of such weeds in grassland, which can be accessed at on its website.

DAERA has asked people to take the environment into consideration when spraying. It said: “Care should be taken when filling and applying herbicides to ensure no chemicals enter any drain or waterway. Grassland herbicides are the most commonly-detected pesticides in local drinking water catchments; MCPA is of particular concern.”

When spraying, observe buffer zones and where possible use low-drift nozzles. After spraying, ensure sprayers are cleaned and stored under cover to prevent rain washing any contamination from the sprayer into drains.

Farmers are also reminded that all sprayer operators must now have an approved certificate of competence with all tractor-mounted equipment over five years of age now requiring a National Sprayer Testing Scheme certificate. This is due to the Sustainable Use Directive now being in full effect.

A Water Catchment Partnership has been established to underline the issue of pesticides in local water catchments and is attempting to raise awareness of the issue with local users.

The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) will be supporting this initiative with localised delivery of Rush and Grassland Weed Control Workshops.

In addition, Northern Ireland Water is launching a ‘pilot’ free weed wiping programme for farmers in the Seagahan reservoir catchment, as part of the Water Catchment Partnership’s initiative to reduce the use of MCPA.

Any farmers within this catchment area can get in touch with Dominic McCann, NI Water on: 07803-799217 for more details.

Also Read: ‘Sustainable agriculture is dependent upon a healthy environment’

The Department concluded: “Further advice on weed control can be obtained from a BASIS-qualified agronomist or a CAFRE Crops Development Adviser. Noxious weed complaints and complaints involving invasive alien plant species growing on agricultural land may be reported to DAERA on our helpline number: 0300-200-7843.”