Scots trial finds ‘woolly warriors’ efficient in opposition to big hogweed

A SCOTS trial has discovered that sheep grazing successfully reduces the unfold of big hogweed, a extremely invasive and dangerous non-native plant.

A flock of woolly warriors had been launched by the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative into woodland alongside the River Deveron to munch their means by means of invasive big hogweed vegetation.

(C) NatureScot

The Initiative is led by NatureScot and funded by the Nationwide Lottery Heritage Fund, NatureScot and by in-kind assist from venture companions and volunteers.

The sheep had been launched into the strip of woodland alongside the river past the Macduff distillery as a part of a four-year hogweed grazing trial in 2019.

Big hogweed is among the most infamous invasive non-native species within the UK.

Not solely is it extremely invasive and simply unfold – every seed head can produce 20-50,000 seeds, all doubtlessly viable for as much as 10 years – but it surely additionally accommodates a phytotoxic sap inside its leaves and stems which may trigger extreme pores and skin burns to people.

An infested website should be handled persistently for a few years (generally 10 or extra) to completely exhaust the seedbank.

Infested websites are usually handled by spraying pesticides onto the leaves of the vegetation and by slicing flowering heads to forestall additional seed manufacturing.

Over time, this may kill off the infestation and deplete the seedbank within the soil.

Nonetheless, this may be time consuming, pricey and bodily difficult – particularly in tough terrain.

Nonetheless, as soon as conversant in the plant, sheep will readily and even preferentially graze on big hogweed with no adversarial results from the sap.

Over time, grazing depletes the assets saved within the plant’s taproot and ultimately kills it off.

Dan Gordon, landowner of the Macduff trial website, mentioned: “It’s superb to see the progress made over the past 4 years.

“The enormous hogweed was utterly dominating the woodland and would have been actually difficult and dear to cope with utilizing pesticides.

“The Scottish Invasive Species Initiative offered a really welcome alternative to attempt an alternate strategy – I’m actually happy with the outcomes.”

Monitoring the impact of the sheep on each big hogweed and native vegetation has been an integral a part of the trial.

The total case research, detailing our administration technique and monitoring outcomes, will be discovered right here.

Karen Muller, the Venture Officer managing this work, mentioned: “The monitoring undertaken was actually essential because it allowed us to regulate our grazing regime every year and discover the fitting steadiness between grazing the large hogweed and avoiding overgrazing – thereby defending native plant species.

“We decreased grazing strain over the primary few years and settled on a regime that managed big hogweed with restricted impacts on native flora.”

The teachings learnt and information gained on this trial have been collated into administration steerage out there right here.

This consists of an outline of the Macduff trial, administration concerns and key suggestions for achievement.

It additionally consists of every little thing from what sort of sheep had been used, what time of 12 months to deploy sheep on a website, tips on how to scale back the chance of overgrazing and key issues to search for when monitoring progress.

Venture Supervisor Callum Sinclair mentioned: “We’re delighted to share this administration steerage and hope it would assist to tell and encourage others taken with utilizing sheep grazing as a sustainable, long-term technique of big hogweed management.

“We’d particularly wish to thank Dan Gordon from Kirkside Farm and our colleagues on the College of Aberdeen for his or her dedication, exhausting work and assist on this venture at Macduff.”

This week is Invasive Species Week, elevating consciousness of the adverse impression of invasive, non-native species within the UK.

Invasive non-native species are one of many prime 5 drivers of world biodiversity loss.

In Scotland, they threaten the survival of native wildlife, injury our pure ecosystems, value the economic system almost £246 million a 12 months.

They’ll even hurt our well being and intrude with actions we get pleasure from.

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