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Poul Christensen, Chairman of Natural England, reflecting on a visit to a grouse moor in North Yorkshire, congratulated the MA and its members: " Moorland owners care for some of England’s most iconic landscapes. We have 75 per cent of the world’s remaining heather moorland here in the UK and careful conservation allows millions of visitors to enjoy exceptional wild places, supporting local jobs and businesses.
They are also complex ecosystems that require careful management for sustainable shooting businesses as well a wealth of wildlife. The role of moors in both the water and carbon cycles is vital too."


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Bracken Control

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.

  • It kills other vegetation, particularly heather.
  • It is poisonous to economically important animals, e.g. sheep and cattle.
  • The spores of bracken are carcinogenic, causing cancer in animals and people.
  • It is one of the most preferred habitats for the sheep tick due to the thick mat layer it produces when it turns brown and dies. This layer remains moist, ensuring that the ticks don't dry out and die.
  • Sheep ticks suck the blood of moorland animals such as sheep/lambs, bird chicks, deer and blue hares, causing weakness and sometimes death. In certain areas, ticks can also pass on three diseases in sheep - Louping Ill, Tick-borne Fever and Tick Pyaemia. Grouse are susceptible to Louping Ill and mortality is very high among those infected.

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.

© Moorland Association 2006
Any photographs may only be reproduced for editorial use with permission.
Please contact Amanda Anderson Tel 0845 4589786 for any press or photographic inquiries.