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Audlem Strikes Back

15th August 2022 @ 6:06am – by Steve Elliott
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Ragwort -- Audlem strikes back!!

As you probably know, Ragwort has been prolific everywhere this year, as the swathes of yellow flowers on Turnpike have demonstrated!

Whilst the DEFRA Code of Practice does state that Ragwort, as a native plant, is very important for wildlife in the UK. It supports a wide variety of invertebrates and is 'a major nectar source for many insects', there is however, a limit as to how much we want!!
Turnpike Field also falls into Defra's 'low risk' classification:-'If Ragwort or the land on which it is present is more than 100m from land used for grazing by horses and other animals or land used for feed/forage production....it is defined as low risk -- no immediate action is required'.

The issue was discussed by the Working Group and the decision taken to remove a significant proportion of the plant so as to hopefully reduce its impact in subsequent years. Since mechanical or chemical treatments would be very damaging to the rest of the field's wildlife, the better solution was hand pulling. Ragwort is only mildly poisonous so does not pose any significant risk by handling the plant.

So, volunteers were sought and many came forward, as always in Audlem, to lend a hand over several days. It was hard work -- particularly given the recent temperatures, but the Audlemites still rose to the occasion. As a result, the lower field is now virtually devoid of any plants, whilst the upper field is dramatically reduced -- probably about 50%.
In total based on 75 hours of activity, about 18,000 plants were pulled. Although this seems a lot, it was well within peoples ability & stamina to pull between 4 and 6 plants a minute.

Many thanks to everyone, including the local tractor. This helped to move the pulled plants to a central tipping point where they will be covered with grass cuttings to help them rot down. Whilst the recommended approach is to burn the plants as seeds may develop even after pulling this was obviously not possible during the current weather.

Looking at the RHS estimate for seeds per plants of between 50,000 and 60,000 seeds per plant, then we have prevented between 900m and 1,080m seeds from dispersing into the field!!

Based the knowledge gleaned from recent activity, advice obtained and research, we are now considering the actions we can take to address this problem to control the ragwort population in the fields.

The results can be seen from the photos.

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