Minimising Environmental Impacts of Chemical Treatment

Here at Invasive Weed Solutions we take our responsibility for the environment seriously. Having recently been asked to detail what steps we take to reduce environmental impacts during our spray operations, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share the steps we take to ensure we keep impacts to a minimum.

Knowledge of a site is hugely important when planning treatment, particularly if the site is new. Prior to our Site Operatives attending site to complete herbicide applications, our Operations Team and Surveyors perform desk based assessments for new areas of treatment. These assessments include checking Natural England’s Magic Map for areas of ecological importance, such as SSSI’s, BAP habitats, LNRs, LWSs, and European Protected Species.

Information collected during the desk based study is coupled with site specific information collected from the client and our surveyors who are degree educated in Botany, Biology and Environmental Science’s, to build an understanding of the habitats we are working in. This information is passed to the Site Operatives to insure they are informed of any known environmentally or ecologically sensitive areas and constraints prior to attending site.

A number of the team are BASIS qualified, holding Certificates in Crop Protection for Amenity Horticulture and Invasive and Injurious Weeds, so we are well qualified to give advice. The most appropriate herbicide will be recommended by the surveyor in discussion with the land owner. The choice of herbicide will be determined by several factors including: the presence and type of surrounding vegetation, the use of the land, and proximity to rivers, streams, ditches and open water.

The type of herbicide used in a treatment is important, especially when working in ecologically and environmentally sensitive areas. In areas such as this, a glyphosate based herbicide will be selected as methods of application can avoid using knapsack sprayers, thus minimising the environmental impact of chemical drift by applying herbicide directly to the target plant species via stem injection and direct application to the leaf by ‘weed wiping’. We work closely with the Environment Agency and follow guidance and recommendations when working within 5m of open or running water, ensuring we have appropriate licences in place (WQM1 / AQherb1) and that only herbicides licensed for use near waterbodies are used.

All of this work would be pointless if we didn’t have a dedicated team of Site Operatives on the ground travelling the country to carrying out the chemical treatments. All site operatives are fully qualified holding PA1 and PA6aw spray licences and ensure all herbicides are mixed to the manufactures guidelines. Spraying equipment is calibrated before the start of each job to ensure the recommended amount of chemical is applied to the infestation. Site operatives always do their upmost to prevent chemical drift occurring and impacting non target species, taking into account wind speed/ direction and wet weather, and will avoid spraying herbicide if the conditions are not right.

So there it is, a little taster of the steps that we go to, to ensure that environmental impacts of our chemical spray operations are minimised. Best practice does evolve and licences change from time to time on the products we use – it’s our job to keep up to date with these changes and always do the best we can… the environment matters!

Stuart Morris