Having problems with ragwort? Here are 4 ways to get rid of the weed

Are you having problems with ragwort, the yellow-flowered noxious weed, on your farm?

If ingested, animals can show symptoms such as, tenesmus, hind limb weakness and evidence of severe pain, the Department of Agriculture has said.

The problem with ragwort, also known as ragweed, is that it lives for five years and if killed in the first year then more seeds and plants will come up in the following year, Shay Phelan, Teagasc Crop Specialist, has said.

“If a farmer sees a ragwort plant this year it is best to pull the plant when he or she sees it because when one plant emerges this year then this will mean more ragwort will develop the next year.

“Ragwort can cause financial cost to farmers as it can cause death to animals. The cost of [destroying] ragwort depends on what spray you use, it can range from €50-70/ha.

“But this is worth the cost [compared to the] financial cost of losing an animal,” he said.

Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture have advised farmers of several ways to dispose of the noxious weed:

Ploughing

Ploughing is a good option if the land is very badly infected and if suitable for reseeding, Phelan said.

“If a field is infected with ragwort there is a high chance that the field needs to be reseeded anyway. The best thing to do is kill if off with round up and reseed it.

“Although this depends on what part of the country the farmer is in, if the land is too stony this makes of more difficult to plough.”

Spraying

The Department recommends that the best periods to spray ragwort is early spring (February to Mid-March) or late autumn (Mid-September – Mid-November).

It is important to spray ragwort in its rosette stage (its first year).

Farmers should be aware that ragwort becomes palatable after spraying and so livestock should be kept off fields that are sprayed and silage or hay should be delayed until all plants are dead and have rotted down.

Among the recommended list of sprays to use to control the weed are MCPA 500, 2, 4-D Amine, Bandock, Forefront and Pastors.

James Humphreys, Research Officer with Teagasc, has said autumn is the ideal time to spray for ragwort.

“The paddock should be grazed out and then sprayed off and left for five to six weeks. Spraying is probably the best practice for busy farmers.”

Pulling

Teagasc recommends pulling the weed by hand is a good way to control the weed when the infestation is not severe and labour is available. Pulling after heavy rainfall gives the best results.

The pulled plants should then be removed and destroyed, or disposed of to a landfill. Pulling should be done two years in a row to see a result, it is advised.

Gloves should also be worn because the toxins in ragwort can effect humans through the skin.

Cutting

The plants should be cut before the flower open on the plant as this prevents the seeds from spreading, Teagasc advises.

Although, it said that to see a result with cutting the plant can take years and also requires good grassland management. Cut plants should be collected and destroyed.