Since November 2015, people who use pesticides* (including herbicide or weedkiller) in a professional capacity must be registered with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and the Marine. It is no longer possible to use pesticides in a professional capacity or to use certain formulations unless you are registered.
In order to register, the person must have undertaken the relevant, certified course in safe pesticide handling for the relevant equipment (i.e. a knapsack sprayer or boom sprayer).
There are a number of training companies offering approved FETAC or City & Guilds approved courses and many CE scheme, Tus and RSS participants would have undertaken these courses over the last year
Pesticides approved for amateur use are products that are used in the home or garden situation and are approved for such purposes. You do not need any formal training to use these products; neither are you required to register as a user with DAFM. These products are most likely to be found in your local garden centre, DIY store or supermarket.
*It should be noted that pesticides also includes products to eliminate rats, slugs, ants and other garden pests.
Section 40 of the wildlife act prevents the destruction of vegetation (such as hedge cutting, burning, digging and broad scale pesticide application) during the nesting season 1st March-31st August inclusive. There is provision within the law for the targeted treatment of noxious or invasive weed species but it does not authorise the destruction of adjacent vegetation. Accordingly, extensive, untargeted spraying of road verges with herbicide is, as such, an offence under Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts.
Extra care should be taken in or near designated sites such as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs). The use of pesticides within or near these special habitats is a notifiable action which requires ministerial consent. So it would be best to avoid spraying where possible. For advice contact your local NPWS Conservation Ranger and see here for more information. http://www.npws.ie/farmers-and-landowners/notifiable-actions
In the first instance it is best to avoid the use of weedkillers where at all possible and manage weeds through prevention or manual control methods such as:
- Prevention – While it’s not possible to prevent 100% of weed growth, there are a number of measures which would suppress weed growth, including the upgrade of footpaths which are in poor repair, a more regular cleaning programme of footpaths and gullies to prevent a build-up of growing substrates,
- The use of mulching within gardens, beds, parks etc. can also be very effective in suppressing weed growth.
- No weed control – This requires a tolerance from local communities and possibly a change of attitude to the concepts of weeds. Where weeds do not pose a nuisance or problem for health and safety, they can be left to encourage a host of beneficial insects and birds that feed on nectar and seeds etc. Sometimes a bit of awareness effort or signage is needed to change people’s thinking on weeds
- Cutting or Strimming – Where practical, regular cutting or strimming will keep weeds down and allow less aggressive plants to grow. Care should be taken in areas with archaeological features, old graveyards etc and around trees. And always check for hedgehogs or other young mammals as you go.
- Manual weeding and Hoeing – Clean and effective but labour intensive. If you can round up some volunteers to do the initial ‘big weed’ job for the first couple of seasons, it becomes easier to manage in subsequent years.
- Grazing – Cows, sheep, goats or ponies can be effective in grazing larger areas that require regular maintenance such as old graveyards, abandoned properties etc.
- Novel techniques such as flame weeding and hot water weeding are growing in popularity and are a clean efficient means of controlling weed growth using a very brief burst of heat to destroy the plant (not by burning it but by cell damage caused by the heat). Great care should be taken to avoid causing fires or injury to persons or property. Extreme caution is required around graveyards and monuments as heat may damage stonework or headstones.
- Slug pellets should never be used as they are harmful to a whole host of animals and every year a large number of hedgehogs, birds and dogs get sick and die from eating poisoned slugs or from consuming pellets directly.
Where weedkiller must be used opt for:
- a product designed for your target species
Ensure the product you select is effective for the weed control that you need.
- the least harmful option
Some glyphosate based formulations are among the very few approved for use near water and are generally the least environmentally harmful though there is concern on the possible impacts on human health.
There are organic weedkillers available on the market now which are fairly effective at killing surface growth of the plants but not the roots. These are largely vinegar based solutions. Irish Organic Weedkiller is manufactured in Co Galway or you can find plenty of DIY recipes online.
- non-persistent herbicides
Avoid the use of persistent weedkillers which remain active in the soil for a long time after application as they are particularly harmful to wildlife and soil dwelling organisms.
Always follow the maunfacture’s instructions and use the lowest effective dose
Use the most targeted application means possible i.e. spot treatment, weed licker, cut & paint methods
When spraying, all necessary precautions should be taken to protect human health and that of domestic animals and wildlife as well as non target plants.
- Local farmers and beekeepers should be notified prior to spraying.
- Care should be taken spraying near trees.
- Avoid the use of herbicide near drains, wells and particularly around ponds, rivers or lakes.
- Spray only in dry, calm weather conditions
Empty containers should be rinsed and put in the recycling bin or bring to your local civic amenity site. The container washings can be disposed of over the treated sites NEVER in a sink or drain.
More information on pesticides can be found here.