Welsh Water's weed wiper trial to reduce MCPA in rivers
Dwr Cymru Welsh Water is working with Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the farming industry as part of an innovative campaign to help reduce levels of the grassland herbicide, MCPA, in the River Teifi and Upper River Wye catchment areas.
Welsh Water has been encouraging farmers and land managers from the Teifi and Upper Wye river catchments to sign up for free hire of weed wipers for between April and October 2015. Using weed wipers to manage grassland weeds like rushes is more beneficial as it is applied directly to the plant, uses less chemicals and dramatically reduces spray drift.
MCPA is a selective herbicide specifically designed to kill weeds without harming crops and is a common ingredient in both agricultural and domestic herbicide products. Routine monitoring by Welsh Water has detected increased levels of MCPA, particularly in early summer, in watercourses across Wales. By working together, the organisations hope to gain a better understanding of MCPA sources and how to tackle this problem.
Following investigations in 2013 and 2014, it has been identified that MCPA is widely used for controlling the growth of weeds like the Common Soft Rush, which has flourished following wet weather periods in recent years. Wetter weather puts pressure on land, increasing risk of compaction and poaching, overwhelm drainage and creating favourable conditions for rushes to grow.
The campaign will work with farmers and land managers to promote best practice advice on handling, applying and disposing of grassland sprays and guidance on mechanical control of rushes. Other advice will include guidance on tackling the underlying causes and conditions to improve land condition and to achieve a long term reduction of rushes.
Weed wipers have the added benefit of only being licensed for use with Glyphosate, a chemical which has potentially less impact on water quality as it can break down quicker at around three days compared to MCPA, which breaks down in 15 to 25 days.
Ian Christie, director of Water Services at Welsh Water, said: “Protecting the local environment is a priority for us. By working with NRW and the farming industry on this innovative project, we not only hope to see a reduction in the levels of MCPA in these catchments but also want to increase awareness of how what happens on the land can impact the water quality of watercourses across the wider catchment.”
Gavin Williams, chair of the FUW Land Use Committee, said: “The initiative is supported by the Farmers' Union of Wales. Farmers appreciate the importance of responsible grassland herbicide use. The weed wiper offer provides the opportunity for landowners to try out different rush management methods, improving the availability of grazing for livestock as well as water quality.”
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