Canoe Focus Winter 2017 - Page 76

76 77 Why do we need to bash the Policeman’s Helmet? Policeman’s helmet or more commonly known as Himalayan Balsam can be found along most of our urban and river catchments in England, and is spreading quickly elsewhere in the UK. It is easy to identify as it can grow up to 2 metres tall with pink-purple trumpet shaped flowers on mature plants. The plant also produces explosive seed heads which easily pop if touched, which is great fun but helps increase its spread. Chemical control How you can help British Canoeing Each plant can produce up to 800 seeds. These are dispersed widely as the ripe seedpods shoot their seeds up to 7m (22ft) away. Where non-chemical control methods are not feasible, chemical controls may need to be used. Choose a weedkiller that is most appropriate for the purpose by reading the label carefully before buying or using. Contact weedkillers and glyphosate have low persistence in the soil, being virtually inactivated on soil contact. Residual weedkillers persist in the soil for several weeks or months and can move deeper or sideways in the soil, leading to possible damage of underlying plant roots. British Canoeing are working with Defra led Non Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) with a National Strategy on controlling not just Himalayan Balsam but many other aquatic non native species which have the potential to be harmful to our native ecology and have huge impacts on the amenity use of our waterways. It was introduced as a garden plant in the early 19th century and first recorded in the wild in 1855. Often favoured by the general public for its aesthetic appeal it is still deliberately planted on occasion. Now widespread in the UK, especially along urban rivers it spreads solely by seeds, which are small and easily carried by wind or water. The most widespread distribution tends to be by human means where individuals pass on seed to friends. This plant out-competes native species in ecologically sensitive areas, particularly river banks. How can you control Himalayan Balsam? Where it grows in dense stands along river banks it can impede flow at times of high rainfall, increasing the likelihood of flooding. Die back of extensive stands over winter can leave river banks bare and exposed to erosion. Plants that out-compete other more desirable plants or simply invade half the garden are classed as weeds and require control. First, consider whether this can be done using non-chemical means such as pulling or digging out, or suppressing with mulch. If this can’t be achieved, consider using chemical methods. Himalayan balsam is listed under Schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with respect to England and Wales. As such, it is an offence to plant or otherwise allow this species to grow in the wild. Once established in the catchment of a river, the seeds, which can remain viable for two years, are transported further afield by water. Before using weedkillers alongside waterways it is necessary to contact the Environment Agency (see telephone directory for your local office). It can advise on suitably qualified contractors, as can the National Association of Agricultural and Amenity Contractors. It may take a couple of seasons to obtain good control of Himalayan balsam, as additional weed seedlings germinate after the parent plants are killed off. Non-chemical control With these organisations, British Canoeing will be setting up balsam bashing days in 2018. If you would like further information on how to get involved, please contact Richard Atkinson, British Canoeing Policy Officer at Richard.atkinson@ britishcanoeing.org.uk The main method of non-chemical control, and usually the most appropriate, is pulling or cutting the plants before they flower and set seed (May- July). Conservation authorities regularly organise ‘balsam bashing’ work parties to clear the weed from marshland and riverbanks. We are also working in partnership with other organisations such as the Inland Waterways Association, Rivers Trust, Canal and River Trust and water companies to both raise awareness of non native species and their impacts but to also plan and implement working groups to eradicate sections of rivers, canals and lakes of these harmful organisms. Volunteers are key and ]B[[\ܝ[H[[[HXYوۈ]]\[]\[\ܝ[][BX]܈[\[H\]\^\^BH\ H؛[