Bracken control in England

Bracken leaves

Photograph: Pixabay

The HSE has approved the use of Asulam, commonly marketed as Asulox, to control bracken in England from 1 July to 11 September 2023. The window for applying Asulam has now closed. 

Why is bracken control important?

Bracken control is essential for both animal and human health, alongside maintaining land for grazing and fostering biodiversity.

Bracken beds provided an ideal habitat for sheep ticks and the associated tick-borne diseases pose a threat to health of people (especially Lyme disease), livestock, and wildlife.

At the end of 2012, Asulam, which is marketed as Asulox, was withdrawn from use for bracken control, however it has continued to be available under the terms of annual emergency authorisations, applied for by the Bracken Control Group.

Emergency Authorisation of Asulam

Currently, the use of temporary use of Asulam has been approved in England only. It has not been approved in Scotland or Wales. A decision has yet to be made in Northern Ireland.

Conditions for Asulam use

In England only, the authorisation for Asulam use came with some key conditions:

  • The application of Asulam is authorised from 1 July until 11 September 2023.
  • To minimise interaction with breeding birds, where feasible, application should have taken place after 1 August 2023, or as late in July as possible.
  • To protect mammals, application is not allowed where the hazel dormouse is known to breed.
  • Aerial application using low drift nozzles has been authorised, subject to an aerial spraying permit being obtained. HSE will provide template application forms for these permits on their website. A separate Aerial Spray Permit must be granted by HSE for each job before work can take place.
  • Ground-based application has been authorised for conservation areas.
  • There was no change to the no-spray buffer zones included in previous authorisations.
  • Livestock must have been removed from treated areas and were not allowed to return until at least one month after treatment.
  • After 11 September 2023, it will no longer be allowed to sell Asulox on the market or to use it. No spraying is to take place after this date.  Returns of unopened containers will be accepted by distributors; it will be illegal to hold stocks of Asulox after 27 October, where the emergency authorisation period will end for storage and disposal of stocks.

Submit records of your Asulam use

As a condition of the approval, anyone applying Asulam must have provided details to the Bracken Control Group.

Details submitted will be anonymised and reported to HSE to support future applications for the use of Asulox. Without this information, future approvals may not be granted.

You can submit your records of Asulam use online at: Braken Control Group – Records 

Further information

More information on bracken control, and details on the current emergency authorisation period of Asulam use in England, can be found on the Bracken Control Group website: Bracken Control Group – Updates

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