Herbicide ban could damage moorland

An EU ban on a herbicide used by spinach growers on the Continent could damage moorland landscapes and the grouse shooting industry, it has been claimed.

The ban on Asulam, which in the UK is applied by aerial spraying to keep bracken down on moorland, would leave hundreds of thousands of acres vulnerable to infestation by the plant, the Moorland Association warned.

As the shooting season gets under way, the Association warned that without the chemical, heather moors would be taken over by bracken, damaging wildlife and moorland habitat and hitting the grouse industry.

MA vice chairman George Winn-Darley said: "Without the government-approved chemical, successfully and safely used for 35 years, our countryside and rural livelihoods will suffer very serious consequences.

"This will not only adversely affect biodiversity, including red-list endangered species, but radically impact on grouse management, jobs and ultimately the appearance of globally important moors."

He said grouse breeding would be hit, affecting the shooting industry which is worth £67 million a year and supports more than 1,500 jobs.

Asulam, banned following safety concerns over aerial spraying of spinach on the Continent, helps maintain moorland in tourist areas, the Association said.

Controlling bracken on grouse moors also reduces numbers of the ticks responsible for spreading Lyme disease.

Moorland Association members manage 850,000 acres of heather moorland habitat for red grouse. The shooting season begins tomorrow as the "glorious 12th" falls on a Sunday this year.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) said the prospects for this year's season were a mixed bag because of the wet weather earlier in the year.