Information

How to prevent the spread of ragwort: guidance

The guide offers advice to prevent and control the spread of ragwort where there is a threat to the health and welfare of animals.


Appendix 4: particular categories of land

Introduction

1 Where land has a special designation and attracts support payments which place conditions on the way the land is managed, or has a specific biodiversity wildlife interest, no action to prevent the spread of ragwort should be taken without the approval of the relevant authority. In the case where an area of land falls within more than one category, broad liaison will be necessary and all the relevant considerations need to be taken into account.

Set-aside

2 Land set-aside from agricultural production is a potential source of ragwort and is subject to the provisions of the Weeds Act in the same way as other land. Action may be taken to control ragwort at any time by means of pulling, cutting, spot burning or herbicide. Full details of the rules for weed control on set-aside land are included in the Single Farm Payment Scheme Information Leaflet 6 on Set-Aside land issued by us in late 2004.

Organic farming

3 Where land is farmed organically there will be limitations on the control options that can be used. If in any doubt about the standards covering this area farmers should contact their Certification Body. Further advice on practical measures should be obtained from suitably experienced organic consultants.

Agri-environment schemes

4 Agri-environment schemes include the Environmentally Sensitive Areas Scheme, Countryside Premium Schemes, Habitat Scheme, Scotland Rural Development Programme and the Rural Stewardship Scheme. Participants in the Rural Stewardship Scheme must ensure that any injurious weeds to which the Weeds Act 1959 applies are controlled to prevent their spread and to avoid risk of damage to the conservation interest of any habitat or feature on the unit. Injurious weeds are not only considered to be a potentially serious threat to agricultural production but, if allowed to spread into areas of conservation interest, may reduce the diversity of species within these sites and cause a deterioration in the value of the landscape.

National Nature Reserves (NNR), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Natura 2000 sites and other statutorily designated natural heritage sites (including sites that support Red Data Book Listed, Nationally Scarce or Biodiversity Action Plan Priority species)

5 Several species of ragwort and closely related species occur as native plants on many statutorily designated natural heritage sites such as Natura sites, National Nature Reserves and SSSI. Some species of ragwort are rare. Where management of plant life is crucial to the ecology of designated sites, weed control, including the control of Common Ragwort, may be potentially damaging to the nature conservation interests of the site. For SSSI or Natura 2000 Sites the local SNH Area office should be contacted for further information before proceeding.

Non-statutorily designated wildlife sites/sites with nature conservation interests (including sites that support Red Data Book Listed, Nationally Scarce or Biodiversity Action Plan Priority species)

6 It is recommended that the approach adopted in paragraphs 5 above should generally apply to non-statutorily designated wildlife sites.

Scheduled monuments

7 Control on or removal from land that is protected as a Scheduled Monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 may also require Scheduled Monument Consent (SMC). Historic Scotland must be consulted and advice sought as to the most appropriate method of control (see appendix 7).

Common land and common grazing

8 Common land and common grazing can sometimes be populated by a number of species including common ragwort. Where ragwort is identified as putting at risk animals grazing on the common or neighbouring land used for grazing and/or feed/forage production, it must be controlled. Responsibility for control lies with the registered owner of the land, Grazing Committee and/or the person entitled to the occupation of the land (normally the landowner but not exclusively so). The common right holders are not normally deemed to be the owners or occupiers. As common land and common grazing may also be subject to environmental designation, it may be helpful to refer to paragraph 5.

Other land used for grazing

9 On land used for grazing horses and other animals, control of ragwort is the responsibility of the occupier (owner or tenant) of the land. The presence of ragwort within a grazing area can pose a high risk to grazing stock, particularly horses, which are highly susceptible to the toxic effects of ingested ragwort

10 Particular attention must be given to the presence of ragwort seedlings which are less visible than the rosette stage and more likely to be eaten. Where ragwort is identified as posing a high risk to animals, suitable control measures should be taken or animals removed from the source of risk.

Forage production

11 Grassland conserved for forage production including: hay, haylage, silage and crops grown for dried grass can contain ragwort. Ragwort cannot easily or readily be detected once dried. It remains highly toxic and cannot be easily discarded. In its dried form it is more likely to be eaten and poses a higher risk of poisoning to the animal than in the grazing situation. Where ragwort is identified in fields used for feed/forage production suitable control measures must be taken.

12 Any feed or forage that contains ragwort is unsafe to feed to horses and other animals and must be declared 'unfit' as animal feed and be disposed of safely. The Agriculture Act 1970 and the Feeding Stuffs Regulations 2000 govern the sale of animal feed and forage. Regulation 14 makes it an offence to sell any material for use as a feeding stuff that is found, or discovered as a result of analysis, to be unwholesome for or dangerous to any farmed animal, companion animal or human being. Trading Standards should be notified if feedstuffs are found to contain ragwort as an offence may have been committed.

Amenity grassland

13 Amenity grassland, which includes: sports grounds, playing fields, village greens and grassed areas around buildings and gardens, are usually intensively managed and would normally pose a low risk of ragwort spreading to grazing land and land used for feed/forage production. However, where land is less intensively managed it can pose a risk if ragwort is allowed to proliferate in areas not frequently cut and/or on the perimeter of the amenity area. In such situations where ragwort poses a high risk of contaminating neighbouring land used for grazing and/or feed/forage production, then effective control measures must be taken to prevent the spread of ragwort. Control methods should take into account public access and safety, and a suitably sufficient risk assessment must be undertaken prior to control.

Roadways

14 Ragwort is frequently found growing by the side of roads; whether motorways, trunk roads, other public roads or private roads. It can pose a serious risk of spreading to grazing land and land used for feed/forage production within the locality. Where ragwort is present on roadside verges and the spread of ragwort poses a high risk to adjacent grazing animals and/or feed/forage production, it must be controlled. The nature of a road corridor is such that it can often act as a conduit for the spread of ragwort, regardless of whether the seed source originated within or outwith the road boundary.

15 The control of roadside vegetation including common ragwort is the responsibility of Transport Scotland in the case of motorways and other trunk roads, and the Local Authority in respect of all other public roads. Private roads are the responsibility of whoever owns them. Control of ragwort within the boundary of public roads should only be undertaken by appropriately trained and qualified persons. Such persons must have had access to the relevant safety and environmental information to ensure that their specialist work does not compromise the safety of road users or contravene environmental legislation.

16 Particular problems may arise where road improvements or other disturbances of the road verge have occurred and bare ground is exposed. Where practicable, the existing grass sward can be removed and properly stored as turves before being replaced when the works have been completed, resulting in much less bare ground for ragwort to colonise. Seeding measures should be followed up by several mowings during the first year which would promote growth of the desired vegetative sward and reduce growth of ragwort.

Railways

17 Ragwort can be found growing by the side of railway lines and, due to the size and broad spread of the railway network, can pose a risk of contaminating adjacent grazing land and land used for feed/forage production within the locality. Similarly, the number of neighbours surrounding the 30,000 hectare network means that ragwort will undoubtedly spread on to railway property.

18 The control of vegetation on railway land, including the control of ragwort, is the responsibility of Network Rail and is undertaken to ensure the risks posed to trains, railway personnel and the travelling public are reduced to as low as is reasonably practicable. Ragwort is controlled on a reactive basis; dealing with incidents on a site-specific basis. Weed control on private railway land is the responsibility of whoever owns the land.

19 Where ragwort is present on railway land and the spread of ragwort poses a high risk to grazing animals and/or feed/forage production it must be controlled. The work is often co-ordinated with other activities in order to avoid excessive costs and inconvenience to passengers. Due to the potential high risk to personnel working adjacent to railway lines Network Rail have very strict health and safety procedures in place to which all operatives must conform, to ensure their own safety as well as the safe running of the railway. This may require temporary track closures or other forms of phased working linked with reduced services. Personnel involved must also ensure they do not contravene environmental legislation in the course of undertaking weed clearance works. If there are concerns about ragwort on railway land the first action should be for discussions to be held with Network Rail in order to determine what would be a reasonable period of time for clearance work to be carried out, before making a complaint to the Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate.

Aquatic areas

20 Land immediately adjacent to water (this includes rivers, streams, canals, side ponds/side canals, ponds, reservoirs and lochs) can be a source of ragwort, in particular the rarer species, such as fen ragwort, which flourishes in damp conditions. Where ragwort is present on land adjacent to waterways and where its spread poses a high risk to grazing animals including the spread of seeds downstream, and/or feed/forage production, it must be controlled. However, care must be taken to distinguish ragwort from fen ragwort, which is protected and should not be controlled. The Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 places a special obligation on all pesticide users to prevent pollution of water. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency must be notified prior to use of approved herbicides/ pesticides in or near water. Downstream and other adjacent riparian owners should also be consulted when pesticides are applied near water.

Woodland and forestry

21 Ragwort in woodland and forestry generally represents a low risk to grazing animals and to feed and forage production. Where ragwort is present and the spread of ragwort poses a high risk to grazing animals and/or feed/forage production then it must be controlled.

Development areas, waste ground, derelict land, and land used for mineral extraction

22 This category includes brown-field sites awaiting development, abandoned land, and land not utilised or managed surrounding development areas. Land within the urban environment generally represents a low risk to grazing animals and to feed and forage production. Where ragwort is present on development, waste and neglected land, and the spread of ragwort poses a high risk to grazing animals and/or feed/forage production, then it must be controlled. It is expected that owners, occupiers and managers of such land will have in place policies for the identification, monitoring and control of ragwort on land for which they are responsible. In some circumstances, this type of land can have benefits for biodiversity and this should be borne in mind when developing a control policy.

Defence land

23 The Defence Estates (an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Defence) administer the defence estate and are responsible for ensuring that the appropriate standards of weed control are maintained on defence land under its jurisdiction. Where ragwort is present on defence land and there is a high risk that it may spread to neighbouring land used for grazing and/or feed/forage production, the Ministry of Defence will take measures to control the ragwort and reduce the risk of it spreading. Some Ministry of Defence land has conservation status and requires grazing. In these circumstances, where a low risk to animal welfare has been assessed (see paragraph 6 of this appendix), animals may graze defence land where ragwort is present. The Ministry of Defence will take action to reduce this risk if it becomes medium or high risk. The Ministry of Defence will not control ragwort where there is unexploded ordnance present.

Back to top