Herbicides compromise biological control of ragwort


  • K. Betteridge
  • D. Costall




In spite of ragwort flea beetle (RFB) being present on a Dannevirke dairy farm, pastures were sprayed each winter to reduce ragwort density and limit the risk of ragwort poisoning of stock. The trial on this farm from June 1999 - October 2001, aimed to determine whether herbicide (H) impacted on RFB and how H and RFB each impacted on ragwort growth and persistence. RFBfree areas were created by spraying with insecticide (I). Effects of ragwort on animal health are also reported. High ester 2,4-D (H) boom-sprayed once only, in June 1999, killed most ragwort plants and reduced RFB larvae densities to low levels before the plants died. Once new ragwort established in treatment H, the plants became infested with RFB larvae. RFB larvae were suppressed by I resulting in ragwort density declining more slowly than in treatments where RFB were not suppressed. Insecticide treatments were stopped after 15 months and, at 24 months, ragwort could not be found within the trial area. Ragwort control was attributed to the cessation of herbicide spraying allowing the RFB population to reach a sufficient density to kill both small and large ragwort plants. Sub-clinical ragwort poisoning was found in livers of culled cows that had grazed on ragwort-dense pastures. Keywords: animal health, biological control, Longitarsus jacobaeae, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, ragwort, ragwort flea beetle, Senecio jacobaea







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