Friday, 6 July 2012

City of London gets it wrong on ragwort

The latest piece of misinformation being distributed on ragwort comes from The City of London who have put out a newsletter on Farthing Downs, Coulsdon & Kenley, Commons and Riddlesdown.

It contains a number of interesting points.

We started pulling plants on the Woodplace Farm Fields, on the west side the Downs, where cattle have grazed the grass down so that the ragwort plants stand proud so are more easy to spot.
Well, you know why those plants were standing proud don't you? Because the animals know instinctively not to eat them. Ragwort is only one of many many plants that animals don't eat because they taste bad. There is actually one paper published in France, where, rather cruelly, researchers deliberately fed ragwort to animals.
Why? because there was nothing in the literature to indicate that French ragwort killed animals so they wanted to see if there was something different about it. (There wasn't.)

 Why are we doing this? Ragwort is a poisonous plant to livestock and horses, although cattle and horses ignore it when it’s growing if there’s something else for them to eat.
That's exactly it! Animals don't eat it fresh unless they are being cruelly starved into eating anything in desperation. They go on.

But if ragwort is cut and dried and fed to animals in hay they can’t tell it’s harmful and can be poisoned.
 Correct. That is the only other time it is a problem. This land isn't used for hay though!

Ragwort produces lots of seed that’s blown about by the wind so it spreads easily.
This is where the ignorance and myth starts coming in. Ragwort seeds are only blown short distances by the wind. We have the studies on Ragwort seed dispersal to show this. Furthermore, they will only grow into plants if the conditions are right. It is a plain fact that, on average,  only one seed per plant will grow into a new one and since the most recent government survey shows that ragwort is decreasing, it will be on average less than this. These commons and downs are no serious  risk to animals and no serious risk to hay fields.

As part of our Stewardship Agreement with Natural England for the conservation
management of the Commons we’re obliged to control it
 Shame on Natural England then for imposing a condition which is not supported by the scientific evidence.
I have recently been shown some interesting stuff from Natural England which may be the subject of a further posting. Once I am in full possession of the facts on it, It would appear that at least some of their staff are rather ignorant about ragwort, but shame on them for damaging nature conservation interests for no reason.
and it’s a notifiable agricultural weed.
 Here we go again! This is a myth There is no such thing as a notifiable agricultural weed in UK law.
This is a serious myth because it makes people report the weed as dangerous because they thing it is "notifiable" when it is not. It is all part of the hysteria which is generated over this plant and it is really unacceptable for official bodies to repeat this nonsense.

Ragwort Hysteria latest entries

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