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Traditionally, bracken was mown by upland farmers, dried and used as bedding for their livestock during winter, but with the development of modern farming methods, this labour intensive practice ceased. Without this effective control measure, bracken grows at an astonishing rate taking over other vegetation, in particular heather moorland, at a rate of 5% per year. Growing six to 10 foot high with a sophisticated root system weighing in at 40 tonnes per acre, bracken poses many threats to upland sheep farmers and moor owners.
For all the above reasons, it is vital that bracken is controlled and where necessary eradicated using a safe herbicide.
The bracken is sprayed from mid July to the end of August with Azulox, which was originally developed for docks. It can be sprayed from tractor or quad bike-mounted spray equipment, from knapsack sprayers or aerially from a helicopter. It can also be applied by a weed-wipe applicator dragged behind a tractor. Other herbicides will control bracken too, for example Roundup Biactive, but since these kill other vegetation, their only possible application is by weed wipe directly onto the plant.
Once the bracken has been sprayed, it is essential that follow-up work is carried out where the kill has not been totally successful, and this can be done the following season with either Roundup or Azulox. Control of bracken is a continuing, time-consuming and expensive task. Grant aid has been available in the past, but is less so today. It is essential, therefore, that the revenue from grouse shooting, the prime source of funding, continues.