The Ulster Farmers’ Union says the results from a weed-wiping project in Northern Ireland demonstrates the positive outcomes that can be achieved when public bodies and farmers work together.
High levels of the herbicide MCPA have been detected in Seagahan Reservoir near Markethill in Co. Armagh.
In order to reduce these levels, NI Water set up a trial project, working with farmers and the local community to protect this valuable water source.
It involved a free weed-wiping service being delivered to farmers within the catchment area in the Summer of 2017 and 2018.
The main target of the project was rush control on grassland and in addition other weeds such as thistles and nettles are also eligible for treatment during the project using a weed-wiper.
NI Water employed a weed-wiping contractor to do the work. Farmers arranged directly with the contractor to do the work on your land at a suitable time.
UFU president, Ivor Ferguson said, “The project has been very successful and has helped to improve water quality. It is a testament to the farmers in the area who embraced this technology and to NI Water, NIEA, DAERA, CAFRE and the Voluntary Initiative for using a collaborative approach rather than regulations and penalties.
"It is a great example of what can be achieved when we work together constructively.”
The weed-wiping project is a NI Water initiative, supported by the NI Water Catchment Partnership, which the UFU is a member of, and the aim is to help address water quality issues in Northern Ireland related to the use of plant protection products.
Mr Ferguson says he hopes to see more of this type of partnership in future. “Caring for the environment is an important job for farmers and we take it seriously. I would hope to see the weed wiping project extended to other areas. This collaborative approach is working well and I think we can learn lessons from it when tackling other environmental issues such as ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions,” said the UFU president.
The overall aim is to show that pesticide levels can be reduced in the reservoir without the need for more expensive water treatment processes.
This can then be used as a test project to demonstrate the benefits of NI Water working together with farmers and possibly doing more of these type of initiatives in future in other areas.
The project involved a Farm Liaison Officer working with farmers and land managers to manage the weed-wiping and provide accurate advice on handling, applying and disposing of grassland sprays, guidance on mechanical control of rushes and improving land condition to addressing the underlying causes of infestations.