Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Is that ragwort control really necessary?

There has been need for sometime of a blog entry covering the repeated mentions around the internet of ragwort control measures. Let's be clear, there are occasions where ragwort does need controlling. It is dangerous in hay, in fact that is probably the only time that it is dangerous at all. However, there are often disturbing examples of unnecessary and environmentally damaging control.

Worryingly there is a lot of stuff being said even by conservation organisations that shows a disturbing lack of ecological awareness. I will be pointing this general entry at a lot of organisations in the hope that it will inform them.

You should read this list of ragwort myths  
I'll go into more detail later on but suffice it to say the scientific evidence is very very clear. The fuss about ragwort killing livestock is largely made up, invented and false.

There is one practice that I am going to condemn outright and that is calling ragwort an "invasive weed"
If you do this then I would call you a bad conservationist. Knowledgeable botanists will know that this term properly applies to problem plants from a foreign county that have invaded and taken over ragwort is native so please don't encourage the myth that ragwort is a foreign invader through  lack of knowledge leading to improper use of terminology

Similarly ragwort is NOT a "notifiable weed".  A few days  before I wrote this I saw control being justified by this myth!

It is not the only example of poor knowledge being disseminated by people involved in conservation.
Another very annoying one goes like this. "We know that ragwort is important for the cinnabar moth so we leave a little bit behind." It is really difficult to be patient with this kind of poor thinking. Firstly it isn't about the cinnabar moth, ragwort is important for dozens of insects both as a direct food source and as a nectar source.
There is very very clear research that shows that the persistence of any species in a site is dependent on the amount and quality of habitat. Reduce the habitat and you endanger it. There are for example,such things as rare bees which specialise on yellow flowered members of the daisy family for a pollen source. Do you even know if you have them on your site?

Another real clanger is "We work with the British Horse Society".  These people probably mean well, but they appear to be absolutely clueless. Last year they got hammered by the Advertising Standards Authority over their bad material

Another claim might be, "We follow Defra's advice"  ( or which ever devolved body it is) Defra , it appears have very poor scientific literacy. Let me give an analogy. If you want to conduct an opinion poll, and it is to determine which way people vote, would you do it only in the local Conservative Club?
Of course you wouldn't! However, Defra do exactly that kind of thing in determining the risk! Their statistics are worthless. They have based advice on a false basis.

Here are the simple facts.
We have the science to say, that while you may think it advisable  not to take chances, it is not a serious risk
to grazing animals.
We have the science to say it is not increasing  but decreasing in the UK.
We have the science to say that the fuss being made is not necessary.

So rather than listening to the nonsense and hysteria you should be being good conservationists and explaining the truth to people. This includes people who work in positions of authority.

Ragwort Hysteria latest entries

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