Sunday, 18 August 2013

Grooms' assocation ragwort mess up.

My attention has been drawn to a video from the British Grooms' Association entitled
"Pull Ragwort correctly and safely with the British Grooms[sic] Association"
Aside from the puzzling lack of the necessary grammatical apostrophe in writing the organisation's name, I am not impressed by their efforts

As I have  blogged before. It is not uncommon for equine professionals to have a less than perfect knowledge of the ragwort issue and this organisation seems to be yet another example.

It does not start well as it features Liz Daniels the organisation's director who rather irritatingly mispronounces the name of the plant ragwort.
The "o" in "ragwort" is pronounced like the "o" in "worse", and in "worm" NOT like the "o" in "horse"!
Indeed, the Oxford English Dictionary, the accepted authority on the vocabulary of the English language, refers the reader of -wort words to a special entry on the word "worm".

It says:-

"In this word, as in worse adj. and n. and wort n.1, the spelling wo is an early graphic substitution for wu (compare Middle English wolf, wolle, wonder, for Old English wulf, wull, wunder), and this again is a reversion from Old English wy (i.e. ) to the unmutated vowel through the influence of the following r. More normal developments of Old English wyrm appear in the Middle English (eastern and Scots) wirm and (south-eastern) werm."
This does not bode well  for the rest of the video, which one could retitle as, "How to propagate more ragwort plants." We are treated to a display of ragwort pulling where you can actually hear what seems to be the sound of ragwort roots breaking off and being left in the soil. Indeed the tiny tuft of roots that we see is entirely incongruous in relation to the size of the plant. This is important because root fragments are an important source of new plants. It is one of the strategies that the plants have for survival. While the presenter does say that you should get up all the roots, it is pretty obvious many are left behind.

One of the most important scientific papers on ragwort is entitled "The Biological Flora of the British Isles Senecio jacobaea"  Senecio jacobaea being the old name for what we now call Jacobaea  vulgaris or ragwort. and is written by John L. Harper and W.A.Wood. in the Journal of Ecology in July 1957.
These Biological Flora papers, of which there are many others, are special series of papers each on a different element of our wild flora and  each is an attempt to collate and explain what  is known of the ecology of  a plant.
They quote other studies and they say this about the roots of ragwort:-

"Poole and Cairns found 50 to 100 roots per crown on average plants in a cow-grazed pasture. These roots slanted down through the turf below the main mat of pasture roots to run horizontally at c. 10 to 12.5 cm. depth. Plants more than 2 years old had multiple crowns with 600 to 700 roots. The root system may extend much further than the aerial parts, especially in loose soil.
Regeneration may occur from root fragments quite unconnected with the shoot. 50 per cent of fragments (1.5 cm. long) regenerated when planted in damp soil in a warm greenhouse."

As the video continues Ms Daniels  makes this comment:-

"As soon as it dies off the horse seem to like the taste of it better, and actually eat more of it."

Let's get this straight, there is a large amount of science that shows that animals don't eat things that will damage them. The problem with is with hay and starvation abuse. Ragwort and horses  have co-evolved. The problem chemicals are in 3% of all plants. Animals are shaped by nature to avoid the fresh plant.
So that statement does not fit with what we know of the science.

Altogether I must say I am rather unimpressed with the video

Ragwort Hysteria latest entries

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